Given the vigor with which Scandinavian countries (and those who romanticize their welfare states with all the subtlety of Swedish Chef Night at Karaoke Hut) play up the “gender equality” card, you’d think they’d have the whole “gender equity” thing figured out.

You’d be wrong.

Comparing the Nordic countries with each other, a pattern emerges: Those with more extensive welfare-state policies have fewer women on top. Iceland, which has a moderately sized welfare state, has the most women managers. Second is Sweden, which has opened up welfare services such as education, health care, and elder care for private-sector competition. Denmark, which has the highest taxes and the biggest welfare state in the modern world, has the lowest share of women in managerial positions.

The rise of the welfare state has been a double-edged sword for women’s advancement.Essentially, the rise of the welfare state has been a double-edged sword for women’s advancement. On the one hand, it has created jobs in women-dominated fields such as health care and education, and aided the labor-market entry of women by offering day care and other family-related services. On the other, the attendant high taxes have reduced the economic incentive for both parents to work full-time, and have also made it difficult for families to purchase services that alleviate household work (such as cleaning). Parental-leave policies have given women an incentive to take long breaks from working. And state monopolies in female-dominated sectors such as health care and education have limited women’s career choices.

Also worth noting – Scandinavian societies going back to the Vikings gave women rights they wouldn’t have for centuries elsewhere in the world – the rights to own land, inherit property, and file for divorce.   An astonishing level of gender equality predated the Scandinavian social state by centuries.  Not that that stops the left from claiming credit they dind’t earn.

ivvIf you’ve been readint thias blog any length of time3, you know how “unintended conse3qiuences” work.

4 thoughts on “Counterintuitive?

  1. Sorry, this article strikes me as asserting that correlation is causation. For example, the terms large vs moderate with regards to a welfare state are ill-defined, if at all. The same goes for the women in managerial positions (are the women really managing anything or are they just titles?). Third, I know Danes, lots of ’em and none of the Danish women I know are (or are even interested in becoming) managers – perhaps it’s just a cultural thing?

  2. It would be interesting to see if the pattern holds true across all industries. For example, working on a North Sea oil rig is most likely a male-dominated occupation while teaching second graders is most likely female-dominated. But what about the oil company headquarters staff? Any reason they couldn’t be women? And what about the principal of the school? Any reason they couldn’t be men?

  3. So, here’s a thought.

    Is it possible that Scandinavian women are comfortable enough with their job skills and secure enough in themselves, that it doesn’t make any difference? I mean, I know many women that were talented, dedicated professionals in their careers, yet, they embraced their roles as housewives and mothers, just as fervently.

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