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Who wants to hire young women and men with two children?

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-Chief

March is when gender equality usually takes centre stage. This year, the NLJ’s gender equality barometer shows a setback for women's share of 24 power positions in the Nordic countries. But we also look at childbirth, artificial intelligence, the EU's platform directive, and Iceland's refugee policy.

The Nordic Labour Journal does not very often go back 500 years in time. We usually deal with the present. But at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, the big Nordbor exhibition is currently on show.

Thousands of objects from the museum's collections are presented using the latest technology to allow visitors to interact and be touched by the history they convey. 

It is very well done. One of the 37 life stories you encounter is that of Catharina Forsberg (1736–1788), who (with the help of an actor and a screen) explains how she was trained as a midwife. She was chosen in part because she had "narrow, long hands that could save lives."

At about the same time, Sweden began to compile statistics on the number of children born per woman in Sweden. Until 1900, the figure was more than four children per woman, then it dropped rapidly. Last year, the figure was 1.45 children per woman – the lowest since 1749!

It made us wonder how assisted fertilisation could affect birth rates. Denmark has been a pioneering country in this area, thanks to liberal rules. But since 2021, Norway and Sweden have also allowed the use of donor eggs as part of assisted fertilisation. As a result, Denmark's largest private fertility clinic, popularly called "The Stork," has had less to do. A few weeks ago, the clinic closed down.

On its website, the clinic reassures women with frozen eggs and embryos that these have been taken care of by another clinic. Women today have the opportunity to freeze eggs as a kind of insurance policy against having problems getting pregnant later. 

In the US, companies like Facebook and Google offer female employees the option to freeze eggs to have children later, known as "social freezing.” This might initially seem like a good measure to improve gender equality. 

Men, after all, have long been able to freeze their sperm. The first child was born from frozen sperm back in 1953. But it took until 1999 for technology to develop to the point where children could be born from frozen eggs. 

Such techniques are costly, however, and also involve considerable amounts of hormone treatment. It also creates a strange relationship with the employer. And there is no guarantee of having children. 

“I have not heard of Danish employers paying for social freezing, and I hope that it is not happening because this is a really bad idea for healthy women, says Professor Lone Schmidt, one of Denmark's leading experts on fertility and assisted fertilisation. She has another dream:

“It would have an enormous impact on young people if employers signalled that they are very willing to hire young women and men with two small children.”

Becoming a midwife was one of the first career opportunities that were available for women. Today, it is almost exclusively women who apply for that education. The NLJ has spoken to two men who have chosen that path. 

“The atmosphere when the baby is born and the parents receive it is magical,” says one of them, Henrik Lundius.

When we interviewed Paulina Brandberg, Sweden's Minister for Gender Equality and Deputy Minister for Working Life, she was more interested in divorces. Trying to reduce violence against women has always been high on the gender equality agenda. But now there is also talk of "economic violence."

“Economic violence is a way of controlling your partner through money. You might have relationships where the man takes out loans in the woman’s name so that she gets into a lot of debt. This in turn makes it very hard to find somewhere else to live. 

“You also see examples of economic violence even after a relationship has ended. One problem I have dealt with often is very draw-out property disputes, when one partner resits so that the process might last for several years.”

We have also this year taken a look at who holds 24 different positions of power in the five Nordic countries. After three prominent women disappeared from their positions, there was a decline in gender equality for women.

We also study the consequences of the EU's platform directive finally coming into force, and we went to a seminar on artificial intelligence, where warnings were sounded not to believe that the EU's so-called AI Act solves all problems.

And finally, In Iceland, there is a heated debate about how many refugees the country can accept. Between 2018 and 2021, fewer than 900 people applied for asylum in Iceland. There was a big change in 2022 when 4,495 applied. The year after the number stood at 4,159.


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