Skip to main content

Finnish Gender Equality Programme Faces Critique

The Finnish government’s new gender equality programme is being criticised by the country’s gender equality experts. The programme, which points out the goals for the next four years, is described as a disappointment.
‘The most important issues are not included,’ says gender researcher Hanna Ylöstalo from The Finnish Youth Research Society.

Hanna Ylöstalo. Photo: private
 Hanna Ylöstalo. Photo: private

The programme was presented last week and does not bring much to the table, according to Hanna Ylöstalo.
‘The programme boasts a couple of concrete initiatives, which gives an impression of decisiveness, but the truth is that a lot of the stuff is old news,’ she says.

In the programme, the government presents measures to promote men’s health and support victims of domestic violence. For example, the funding of protected housing for victims will be increased by EUR 2 million per year until 2019, but Hanna Ylöstalo is not impressed. In fact, she says, the section on violence in close relationships is basically just a repeat of what Finland has already agreed to do by signing the Istanbul Convention.

Moreover, Hanna Ylöstalo concludes that several measures in the new gender equality programme are already enshrined in national law. One example she mentions is the requirement that all ministers must incorporate a gender equality perspective when designing new projects and policies.

‘But that has already been legislated for, so there’s no reason to include it in the programme,’ she says.

Economic issues not given enough attention

According to Hanna Ylöstalo, the biggest problem with the Finnish government’s gender equality programme is that the economic issues are not given enough attention. She is a member of a research network called Tasa-Arvovaje, which disseminates knowledge and contributes to the debate on economic inequality between the sexes. In a comment posted on its website, the network describes the new programme as a disappointment.

‘Finnish women generally carry a disproportionate responsibility for family chores, and the new programme does not make any effort to change that. There’s a risk that women’s role in the family is reinforced and that their role in the labour market is weakened,’ says Hanna Ylöstalo.

Doing their best of available resources

Illustration: Emma hanquist
 Illustration: Emma Hanquist

Eeva Salmenpohja, who serves as adviser to Juha Rehula, the Finnish minister in charge of gender equality issues, sees the criticism of the new programme as an extension of the previous criticism of the government’s cutbacks in the public sector.

‘We have listened and considered the viewpoints,’ she says.

The measures listed in the gender equality programme are what the national government is currently able to muster considering the economic situation, Eeva Salmenpohja continues.
‘We’re trying to make the best of the available resources. The programme would look different had the economy been better,’ she says.

The fact that some of the measures in the programme have already been addressed by previous governments and enacted in legislation is not so strange, she points out.

‘Gender equality issues require continuous attention. It’s important that we keep working on them.’

Updated 16 April 2020