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Editorial: Vision or reality?

| Text: Berit Kvam

Will Danes vote for a female prime minister in the coming election? In real life? That would be the first time.

People in the Nordic countries have been enjoying the Danish political TV drama Borgen lately. Actress Sidse Babett Knudsen's main role as Denmark's Prime Minister is performed with bravura. By November Danes will go to the polls in real general elections, and they could for the very first time elect a real female prime minister.

The Finnish go to the polls in April. In the Portrait the Finnish Minister of Social Affairs Juha Rehula takes stock ahead of those general elections. A central question in the debate will be Finland's forthcoming generation shift. In News you can read that 'Finland's next government will make people work longer'. Can Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi keep her chair?

Denmark and Sweden are the only Nordic countries that never had a female prime minister. This month's Focus 'Gender equality in the Nordic region - vision or reality?' features Nordic Labour Journal's own count of how many women have held government posts and other public positions of power in the Nordic countries over the past 40 years. The results indicate a stagnation of women's progress in society. It is also interesting to note that each country has its own male bastion which women have not been able to penetrate. Finns don't want female union leaders. Norway does not want a female foreign minister.After the crisis Icelands women have strengthened their position, but most positions of power are still held by men. Does this mean something?

The Nordic countries are world champions when it comes to gender equality. Even though there is considerable variation between the countries, women enjoy high employment levels, generous maternal leave, offers of paternal leave, good nursery and care home cover and women make up more than half of all graduates in higher education. So why aren't more women in powerful positions? The labour market is still divided along gender lines. Women tend to work more often in part-time low wage jobs The leader of the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union, Annelie Nordström, says in 'Part-time is a result of lacking equality' that her union has campaigned for the right to full-time work for 30 years without success. Denmark too is looking for a change of tack in the debate on gender equality.

Sigtona Halrynjo shows through her research that the question of gender equality is more complicated than what legislation and rules allow for. Even when a highly educated woman with a highly educated partner works more and shares family work more equally with her partner than other women do, there is still some way to go before she can enjoy full gender equality in her career and in her share of home and care responsibilities, she writes.

Vision or reality? Perhaps the vision of gender equality is more beautiful than real life, not only in the Danish drama, but also when it comes to 'Gender equality in the Nordic region.'


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