Tale/innlegg | Dato: 16.05.2006
Europe faces two main challenges in the years ahead. The first is to ensure that more children are born. The second is to ensure that more people work and that more people work longer.
Demographic challenge: Gender equality pays! About Norway’s family, gender equality and labour market policy
Minister Karita Bekkemellem
The Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality
28 th >Session of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Family Affairs. Portugal, 16-17 May 2006
I am delighted to have this opportunity to tell about some areas of Norwegian family and equality policy.
Europe faces two main challenges in the years ahead. The first is to ensure that more children are born. The second is to ensure that more people work and that more people work longer. The solution to these challenges lies in viewing family and equality policy in close conjunction with labour market policy. We must both increase the birth rate and achieve an inclusive working life. It is very important that we fully include cohabitants and partners of the same sex in our family policies, as many of these couples also are parents.
Norway is in a fairly good position compared with many other countries in terms of fertility. We top the list in Europe for female employment. Norwegian men are increasingly involved in child care, although still far less than women.
Norway has good public arrangements for families with small children, which have been introduced precisely to make it possible for both mothers and fathers to combine work with child care.
Flexibility is a key word. We have a long period of paid parental leave and a father’s quota which is five weeks now, and will be six weeks from 1 July this year. From January next year it will be easier for parents to combine part time work with paid parental leave. Parents are entitled to flexible working hours and reduced working hours. Each parent can be at home on paid leave for ten days per year if a child (up to the age of 12) or a child carer is ill.
The Government gives high priority to providing full day care coverage. Organised after-school activities come in addition to this.
43 per cent of employed women work part-time. Men work full time, and many of them work a great deal of overtime. This means that we are a long way from full equality on the labour market, in the division of power and care and in terms of income and promotion.
It is impossible to exploit the workforce potential represented by women unless men take their share of child care. Workplaces must notice than men are parents! We will therefore increase the father’s quota to ten weeks by extending the total period of paid leave. This may hopefully, in the longer term, promote somewhat more equal distribution of care responsibilities and more equal distribution of work and care between women and men. I am also proud to inform you that my Cabinet, during 2007, will present a White Paper to the Parliament on 'Men and Gender Equality'; I believe, the first in its kind in the world.
Equal parenthood is the key to equality at work. Equality at work, where both women and men take part in the labour force and contribute their expertise, experience and skills is, in turn, the key to increased productivity and economic growth. These are not just fine words; they are harsh realities that we must accept.