Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i Articles i Editorials i Editorials 2021 i How to become equal despite being different?

How to become equal despite being different?

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

A society can be unjust in many ways – different pay for different genders or discrimination of those who do not fit into the traditional gender roles. But people within minority groups, like those with disabilities, can also be treated unequally.

In this edition of the Nordic Labour Journal, we focus on what the Nordic countries are doing to create more equal and just societies.  

“We are different but equal” is a good starting point. In reality new decisions that have long-term consequences are being made all the time. Women get a greater proportion of parental benefits and sick leave than men. Yet income support does not fully cover the entire earnings shortfall. In the long term this – along with other inequalities – leads to women's lifetime earnings being lower than that of men. 

Lise Bergh chairs the Swedish Commission for gender-equal lifetime earnings, which points to a reduction in the gender pay gap in Sweden in its first progress report. But if you also count public benefits like pensions and capital income, women only earn 77.7% of men’s lifetime earnings. 

For LGBTI people – those of a different sexual orientation or who experience their gender role differently from the majority – the fight is still centred on the most basic of issues: to be recognised for who you are. There has been progress in terms of legislation, but a report from NIKK on commission from the Nordic Council of Ministers shows that when an LGBTI person moves from one Nordic country to another to work or live, they might encounter different rules.

The report says the Nordics are particularly progressive when it comes to laws allowing LGBTI people to live as families, and that asylum legislation is providing protection for LGBTI refugees. Yet the Nordics still lag behind in other areas – especially on the legal recognition of gender and the protection against discrimination of people with intersex variations.

A new study of LGBTI people’s living conditions is being prepared in Norway, the largest of its kind since 2013. 

“We live in a culture where it is important to sort things according to gender. If something goes against the usual categories, people can become quite agitated. Some trans people embody what many in society feel to be difficult to relate to: that gender does not have to be about man or woman, but that it can rather be considered to be a spectrum,” says researcher Elisabeth Stubberud.

In other countries, discrimination can be more extreme, like in Poland where “LGBTI-free zones” have been introduced.

Poland has also been the subject of a ruling by the EU Court, which concluded that discrimination is not only about one minority being treated differently to the majority. It is equally wrong to treat different people within a minority unequally. The ruling, which centred on people with disabilities, could also have consequences for other areas. 

The conflict between national and international law is also being looked at in a legal memo prepared for the Danish government. The memo says there is nothing to stop Denmark from moving its asylum application processes to an African country, yet certain groups of asylum seekers still have a right to have their applications processed in Denmark. 

The Corona pandemic has closed borders also within the Nordic region. Cross-border commuters have not been able to get to work and second home owners have been unable to visit their properties on the other side of the border. It is perhaps not surprising that a record number of Nordic citizens consider double citizenships as being attractive, as the case is in Norway. 

As the Corona pandemic approaches its first anniversary it is time to assess the measures which have been introduced, concludes a report on the Nordic region and Corona carried out by the Danish Technological Institute. Those who push for the Nordic region to be as open as possible have been facing an uphill battle.

But many others are ready to roll up their sleeves and get working, as Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said when she presented the 2021 Finnish Presidency for the Council of Ministers. One of those people is Kristina Háfoss, who started her new job as General Secretary of the Nordic Council on 1 February. You can read our portrait of her in this edition.

We can work towards more equality, but sadly life will never be fair. Our colleague in Iceland, Gudrun Helga Sigurðardóttir, has passed away after a tough battle with cancer. 

Guðrún Helga Sigurðardóttir

She wrote her first piece for the Nordic Labour Journal in November 2011 and enjoyed writing in Swedish for Nordic and international readers. We are going to miss our lovely and skilful colleague and the pride she took in taking us around on Iceland to show us the places she loved the most. You can find some of the many articles she wrote here:


Receive Nordic Labour Journal's newsletter nine times a year. It's free.

This is themeComment