Historical archive

- Empowering women

The necessity of family policies targetting both women and men

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Children and Equality

The present Government of Norway highlights the following, as visions for a gender equal society and the empowerment of women: To redistribute work, power and care.

Joint seminar South Korea and Norway :
Reconciliation of work and family life
–participation of women in private and public sectors.
Seoul, May 9th 2007

Visions. The present Government of Norway highlights the following, as visions for a gender equal society and the empowerment of women:  To redistribute work, power and care.

I) The challenges are:

In work life:

  • More women into full-time work and jobs in sectors where women are rare; Norway has one of the  worlds most gender-segmented labour markets, despite the fact that 68,7 % of women between 16 -74 is in the work force.(Men: 76,2 %)
  • Less household work/caring responsibilities at home for the women and mothers as to promote their working careers;women have to give up some traditional “home positions” to men
  • More men into the care- and education sectors like pre-school, schools, hospitals, intstitutions for the elderly – where today men are rare (the gender -segregated labour market-effect)
  • Less long working hours/over time for males as to give room for more household work and caring responsibilties at home  to the men and fat

In redistributing power:

  • More women into the upper echelons of private, business sector; in board rooms as well as top management – as to redistribute power where the important economic decisions are taken
  • More female leaders;only  29 % of all leaders are women (2004),despite the fact that women constitutes 47 % of all employed people in Norway
  • More women into top positions in academia . Today:21,6  % female professors although more than 50 % of students are women
  • Better gender balance in other “male power bastions”
  • Men have to relinguish power, to step down from power positions and support the best of female leadership
  • Increase women's political representation in Parliament (today 38,2 % are women and on local elected level appr. the same figure.73 % of 434 mayors were women (2003 local elections), which means that 83 % of these positions are held by men !
  • Equal pay for work of equal value in all sectors and positions

Within care:

  • Parental leave systems, work-life arrangements, provisions for caring for sick children etc, should be gender neutral and support equality in  parenthood,regardless of gender
  • The fathers should “come home”; take more responsibilities for household work and child raring
  • It is good for the children to spend time with both parents
  • It is good for the children to attend pre-schools and schools where both gender are employed; to experience equal gender roles and that males also can be caring and tutoring persons
  • Sharing care – responsibilities combined with women having their own income, obviously  boosts the birth-rate; today Norway has 83,6  working mothers and a 1.9 birthrate (2006).

II) Todays tools and "tool-kits" to meet the above mentioned challenges in Norway ( many of these tools work quite well):

As an overall challenge, the gender role stereotypes have to be broken down. This takes time; it has to involve all types of stakeholders: National authorities as Cabinet, Ministeries, Parliament and all political parties, schools and youth, educational systems, work-life partners, private enterprise sector, NGO’s and civil society, the media and cultural institutions, police force, military systems, churches and congregations. It has to be a mix of legal actions, sensitising programs, quotas (affirmative actions affecting both gender), cases by court, research and good statistics, international cooperation and observing HR conventions and covenants.

In the bottom of a successful work-life /family policy, lies the basic value of gender equality and it is shared by most Norwegians as part of our cultural and social belief.

The care- tool-kit:

  • A national, comprehensive National Insurance Scheme (from 1967); paid by 3 parties: State, employers and employees
  • A cross-cutting and strong Gender Equality Law with a national machinery to follow up, complementary to a strong Work Environment Law securing workers rights and employers duties
  • Good health care for pregnant women, mother and child; work.life discrimination of pregnant women is forbidden i the 2 laws, but always has to be looked into as we know that the Gender-and anti-discrimination
  • Ombudsman handles many cases of complaint. The Ministry is p.t. supervising a project on pregnancy/work discrimination in alliance with the social partners
  • A good and comprehensive paid parental leave system – targetting also fathers and promoting participating in work life for both parents, as one has to qualify by employment to obtain rights. Fathers obligatory quota within the parental leave year is to be extended from 6 to 10 weeks, or by law divide the whole Parental Leave Year more even between spouses.
  • Provisions (right to leave of absence) for caring for sick children
  • Provisions for single parents (providers)
  • A new pension system rewarding persons caring for sick or elderly family members
  • Child allowance ( pr.month up to 18 years of age)and Cash Benefit Scheme (pr.month pr.child between 1 and 3 years of age; if the family does’nt use a public supported kinder garten)
  • Full coverage of places in early child care/kindergartens, the goal is to have full coverage from 1 to 6 years of age to a maximum price  all families can afford, by 2008 (very close today)
  • Good systems for public Child Services; to secure the children if families have problems

The redistributing of power tool-kit:

  • Changing attitudes and cultural mind-sets; both for women and men, girls and boys
  • Full implementation of the Gender Equality Law in all sectors of society; using the possibility of the mild affirmative action in the Law (to promote the under-represented gender in a given work place), as well as the equal pay-article
  • Private and public enterprises and institutions are obliged to act upon the duty (in the Law)to work for Gender equality and to report anually on status
  • Full use of the methods for gender mainstreaming in all public sector, hereunder the method of Gender Budgetting
  • Quotas for female representation (and for males if there is imbalance)  in all publicly  appointed committees, working goups, councils and delegations, as regulated in § 21 in the GE Law (since 1981)
  • Quotas for female representation in the board-rooms of a)privately owned, public ltd companies (enforced 010106, ordinary privately owned companies are excempted) , b) state owned companies and c)inter-municipally owned companies (enforced 010104). Law change for the same requirement for municipally owned companies are now looked into.
  • Programs , mentoring and databases to train and recruit women to board-room positions and top mangament – set up by business sector /Employers
  • Associations (as to be able to comply with the law, but also to recruit the best competence)
  • Targeted Action Plans for all the state owned Universities and Colleges, to improve the gender balance of professorships
  • Targeted Action Plans for gender balance in the Armed Forces
  • Action Plans for the Film Industry making use of public funding – to promote female film producers
  • Action Plans for diversity and gender balance in business sector, that is: The companies themselves are establishing gender- and work-life/family life policies, in line with the GE Law
  • Letting men and fathers into the “home-based power-sphere”: Household -work decisions, food and raring children-decisions; women have to let go of traditional “female power”

The work-life tool-kit:

  • All the tools mentioned above under “Care” and “Redistributing power”, are very relevant for changing work-life and empowering women
  • Good dialogue between the social partners and Goverment
  • Good statistics and research measuring developments and showing that women’s participation in work life pays off (Goldman Sachs, World Bank, the
  • Economist lately publishing facts upon this)
  • Programs and mentorships, training courses and data-bases, to enhance and secure female candidates to all levels of work in private and public sector
  • Actions to break the gender-segregated labour market; by using the advisory system in secondary schools when young people set out to choose educations and jobs
  • Sensitising teachers on gender issues and stereotypes
  • Get rid of the notions that the care-sector is lowpaid, part-time and therefore a women’s sector/not for men! (Wage- negotiations between the social partners is crucial)
  • On-the-job-plans and provisions to promote women and men’s possibilties to combine working careers and family life (the Law gives possibilties for many varieties of flexible work hours, leave of absence, ICT-home-offices etc).Cultural change in men’s and women’s work life habits is a major challenge!
  • Trade Unions and NGOs are important allies!
  • Consequent use of the Gender equality Law and the Work Environment Law as to promote equal opportunties, diversity and eliminating hindrances for women in work life
  • Equal Pay has to come real ! Today women in Norway are paid 15 % less on an average pr.hour than men. The Government has appointed an Equal Pay Commission to deliver assessment, studies and suggestions by March 2008.

III) Summing up:

It pays to give women work opportunities!

According to a Global Economics Paper No:154 (2007) by Goldman
Sachs, “ Reducing gender inequality could play a key role in adressing the twin problems of population ageing and pension stability. In countries where it is relatively easy for women to work and have children, female employment and fertility both tend to be higher.
Economies where the problem of population ageing is most acute – such as Japan and Italy – also tend to be those where female employment is lowest.
 Closing the gap between male and female employment would have huge economic implications for the global economy, boosting US GDP by as much as 9%, Eurozone GDP by 13% and Japanese GDP by 16%.
 Governments could do much more to narrow the gender employment gap: reducing tax distortions that discourage female employment, eliminating differences in retirement policies and subsidising child care are three obvious examples”

The Economist of April 21st,states the following, in an article called “Womenomics revisited”: “ A report ...by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific concludes that sex discrimination costs the region $ 42 billion –47 billion a year by restricting women’s job opportunities.A gap of 30 –40 percentage points between men’s and women’s workforce participation rates is common. The poor state of girl’s education costs a further $ 16-30 billion.And those are just the economic costs before violence against women and access to health care are counted”

The World Bank presented the new strategy of “Gender Equality as Smart Economics” last August and is aleready in the making of several actions come true.

CREDO: I believe that empowering women is to secure and facilitate their participating in the economy; it gives pride and independence to girls and women, and is vital to develop economies and democracy –  world wide.