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Most issues now have a gender dimension

| By Björn Lindahl, editor in chief

The 8th of March is being marked in many different ways across the Nordics. What is the most important issue on International Women’s Day? We look at what has happened after women again have managed to gain more positions of political power in Finland, how the fight for equal pay is doing in Sweden and what Denmark is doing to fight sexual harassment in the workplace.

We could mention many other issues. After all, what issue does not have a gender dimension? At the annual gender equality conference in Norway, artificial intelligence was one of the main themes. At the same time, Norway’s new Minister for Equality Abid Q. Raja talked about his personal fight to be able to choose his own partner, Nadia Ansar.

“In the beginning it was mainly my own fight. Getting what I wanted. Gender equality was something I started thinking about after we had our twin daughters and my Pakistani family started to say they were sorry for me. They said they would pray for me so that I could have twin sons as well.”

Things might seem to be moving slowly in many areas. But change is happening, if you only look close enough. This is the tenth year we present our gender equality barometer, where we look at whether men or women hold 24 positions of power in each Nordic country. This year, Nordic women got 83 points, a real leap from last year’s 66 points. 100 points for women would represent full gender equality in these particular positions of power.

In order to gain power – be it only over your own situation – you usually need a job.

There will always be those who find themselves further removed from the labour market than others. They might have psychological, social or cognitive problems. The Nordic welfare societies always strive to allow everyone the satisfaction of getting a job. So much of our identity depends on being able to support ourselves and to contribute to society.

Norway’s welfare authority NAV has been in stormy weather. Thousands of people who received certain kinds of benefits have been wrongly sentenced to pay hundreds of thousands of kroner because they were in an EU country while receiving the benefits. NAV, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the courts have concluded that the EEA agreement does allow people to receive these benefit also while residing abroad. But nobody is completely sure, and it is not easy to work at NAV these days.

There are, however, plenty of very engaged NAV employees who want to make a difference, according to a project led by the Norwegian Work Research Institute. Caseworkers at NAV were allowed to choose a number of their most difficult candidates and concentrate their work with them. This produced results.

Rather than focussing on how to adapt a person to a workplace, the opposite was done: trying to change conditions in the workplace so that it adapted to the individual instead. The project shines a light on the relationship between bureaucracy vis-a-vis private enterprise. Is something important lost when we treat people according to the principles governing private enterprise, where the drive for efficiency always makes it more profitable to identify the best candidates?

This is knowledge which the Faroese employment service has also arrived at. When you only have 296 unemployment people in a population of 52 000, it is no use coming up with standardised courses. All job seekers are treated on an individual basis instead. New professional groups have been involved, including psychologists, therapists and coaches.

“We try to meet people with trust, openness, humanity and positive expectations,” says head of department Högni i Stórustovu at ALS, the Faroese employment service.



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