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Gender equality in the labour market – a Norwegian focus

Nordic females participate in the labour market to almost the same extent as their male counterparts. Yet many gender equality problems remain to be solved, according to Norway’s gender equality minister, who is also the new leader of Nordic gender equality cooperation.


On 1 January, Norway took over the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The programme for the Nordic gender equality cooperation includes initiatives against gender-related violence and online hate speech, work already initiated by previous countries holding the presidency. In addition to these themes, Norway will give special attention to gender equality in the workplace and the labour market. On 7–8 February, Norway will host a Nordic conference in Oslo on the topic. The discussions will address issues such as how the position of migrant women in the labour market can be strengthened, what it means to be a father in 2017 and how gender equality in corporate leadership can be achieved. The event targets researchers, business leaders, policymakers and representatives from the labour market parties.

‘Participation in the labour market and the ability to earn an income are prerequisites for gender equality,’ says Norway’s Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne.
Yet this seems to be easier said than done.

Solveig Horne. Photo: Ilja C. Hendel
 Solveig Horne. Photo: Ilja C. Hendel

‘Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in the private sector, and women and men still tend to choose jobs along traditional gender lines. We need more female engineers and more male preschool teachers.’

Gender equality in the labour market is also the main theme of the UN women’s commission in New York this year and the issue will therefore be discussed in a public panel debate with the Nordic gender equality ministers.

Implementation of the Istanbul Convention

Last year, the Finnish Presidency focused on practices and solutions to combat violence in close relationships. A conference centred on the role of the perpetrators of this type of violence was arranged. Norway will continue this work with a project dealing with the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The project will be presented at a Nordic conference on violence arranged by Norway 29–30 November.

‘Violence is a societal problem, a public health problem and not least a gender equality problem. Victims of violence must be offered protection through support measures and the legal system. Measures targeting the perpetrators are also important in order to prevent the violence,’ says Solveig Horne.

The project will also look into how the Nordic countries are implementing some of the commitments laid down in the Istanbul Convention. The commitments in question concern the work to prevent gender-related violence and the provision of protection and support to victims.

Information package to young people about online hate speech

How to stop online hate speech is another hot topic in the Nordic countries. The epidemic of threats and sexist remarks in website comment fields is a serious democracy problem, as it may silence voices in the public space. The issue received attention during both Denmark’s and Finland’s presidency. One problem is that the legislations in the Nordic countries have not been updated in the area. This spring, Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) will present a review of the legal regulation of online hate speech at the request of the Nordic Council of Ministers. On 21–22 June, Norway will arrange a Nordic conference on the topic.

‘We will continue Finland’s and Denmark’s work against hate speech, and we look forward to NIKK’s review and recommendations about what can be done about the problem. Norway will also develop an information package for children and young people in all Nordic countries,’ says Solveig Horne.

The issue of men and gender equality is also on Norway’s agenda. More specifically, the discussion will concern men and health, men and education and men and men’s roles.
‘We can’t achieve gender equality unless we have the men on board. The participation and involvement of men and boys have been important elements of Nordic gender equality policy in the last 10 years,’ says Solveig Horne.

As a gender equality minister, what do you feel are the main benefits of Nordic cooperation in the area of gender equality?
‘The Nordic countries have worked together to deal with gender equality challenges for over 40 years. Equality between women and men is an important feature of the Nordic countries. It is a prerequisite both for people’s opportunity to create a good life and for the creation of solid welfare states. I feel strongly that the Nordic cooperation helps us improve each other,’ says Solveig Horne.

Updated 13 April 2020