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New publication highlights gender equality effects of COVID-19

It has been one year since the Corona pandemic first hit the Nordic countries and the consequences are far from gender neutral. How are the Nordic countries handling the effects of COVID-19 on gender equality? NIKK’s new publication summarises knowledge, initiatives and measures regarding gender equality in relation to the pandemic.

Early on, the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality have jointly stressed the importance of measures to prevent the coronavirus crisis from becoming a gender equality crisis. Which initiatives have been taken to prevent that and what do we know about gender equality effects of COVID-19 today – one year later? NIKK’s new publication Gender equality effects of COVID-19 – Knowledge and initiatives in the Nordic summarises knowledge produced thus far in the Nordic coun­tries and brings together the gender equality initiatives and measures that the Nordic countries have initiated in relation to the pandemic. In focus are areas such as domestic violence, the economy and working life, and mental health.

– The pandemic has shown and worsened many aspects of inequalities. We see urgent gender equality effects and measures based on the knowledge that exists are needed, says Elin Engström.

The Nordic countries have many similarities when it comes to how their labour markets and welfare systems are organised. But these countries also differ, in particular regarding how they have dealt with the pandemic. The new publication brings together what we know, and how the Nordic countries are working to deal with the crisis from a gender equality perspective.

– Increased knowledge can help us to prepare better. By learning from each other, the Nordic countries can equip themselves better now and when faced with future crises. That is why we have produced this publication, says Elin Engström.

Gender equality effects of COVID-19 – Knowledge and initiatives in the Nordic countries is based on data from the Nordic countries as well as interviews with researchers and experts. The publication is available here.

NIKK and NIVA arrange webinar on sexual harassment in the health care sector

Photo: Luke Jones

Health care workers are crucial to the functioning of society. They work on the front line and meet a large number of people every day – colleagues, patients and their relatives. Research shows that sexual harassment is a big problem in the workplace. That includes health care. On March 2 these issues are highlighted in our webinar ‘Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector’.

Many health care workers report that they have been subjected to sexual harassment at work. The ongoing pandemic has also starkly highlighted shortcomings in the health care sector’s working conditions, which is already a vulnerable sector. The Nordic countries have similarities and differences in how this sector is organised as well as in the format and design of measures and initiatives undertaken. Nordic Information on Gender, NIKK, and the Nordic Institute for Advanced Training in Occupational Health, NIVA, invite you to the webinar Sexually harassed in health care – doubly vulnerable in a hard-hit sector on these highly topical issues.

Learn about the experience of the Icelandic health care sector, the Norwegian Nurses Federation and the newly appointed Swedish Equality Ombudsman, in conversation on the problem as well as important measures and solutions to it. Results from the new report Sexually harassed at work – An overview of the research in the Nordic countries will be presented and discussed from the different perspectives of the panel participants.

View invitation

Report: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny

A new survey of the affiliation of Nordic men with misogynistic internet communities shows that around 850 Nordic young men are active in such forums. The report highlights that the derogatory language about and views on women in these communities are spreading to mainstream social platforms.

Based on more than 100,000 misogynistic posts and comments on internet communities such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, the Nordic report The angry internet has analysed misogynistic communities in the Nordic Region. The report, by the Centre for Digital Youth Care, shows that internet forums exist that bring young Nordic men together in fraternities that incite hatred towards women and gender equality. The report finds no indications that any of the Nordic users will act physically on the basis of their attitudes as has been the case in other countries.        

“The report provides new and important knowledge about how misogyny exists in various forms online. It shows how some young men put themselves in opposition to society and congregate around values and norms that are directly at odds with gender equality and women’s rights, which are both absolutely central to our society,” says Peter Hummelgaard, Denmark’s Minister for Employment.

The report The angry internet and its findings will be presented at an international digital launch with presentations by the report’s authors and Nordic experts the European Commissioner for Gender Equality, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, and the CEO and founder of Promondo and the global campaign MenCare.    The study has been conducted by the Centre for Digital Youth Care for the Nordic Council of Ministers as part of the Danish presidency in 2020.

What do we know about sexual harassment? Overview presents knowledge

It is three years since Metoo started and rapidly spread around the world. We highlight this day by publishing “Sexually harassed at work –
A brief overview of the research in the Nordic countries.” The brief publication presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed.

The Metoo Day, 15th of October, is a way to check on how the power in the revolution metoo came to be is being held on to today. In the Nordic countries the Metoo movement is a pressing issue. One example is the many calls for action against sexism in several sectors in Denmark during this fall.

The publication briefly presents the current knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace in the Nordic countries, while also making apparent key knowledge gaps where more research is needed. What do we know today? How do different sectors differ from each other? The publication is a great way to get an overview of the Nordic research on this burning issue.

Gender equality efforts crucial for the future of rural areas

The Faroe Islands. Photo: Dani L.

Gender is an important parameter for understanding both demographic and economic development in relatively isolated areas. How is gender equality and equal participation in paid work and care for the family negotiated in communities characterised by geographic isolation? The new report “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets” investigates these issues in places in Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Men and women in the Nordic countries occupy different positions in the labour market and in social structures. This new report focuses on people living and working in geographically isolated areas of the Nordic region. How do they make a living and maintain ties to locality? And how do questions of gender equality impact on work and family life decisions? The places in focus are Narsaq in Greenland, Suðuroy in the Faroe Islands and Læsø in Denmark. While different in several important respects, these places face a common challenge in maintaining demographic sustainability. They are all characterised by declining population figures, and especially young women tend to leave.

The research project is partly funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

The butterfly effect: minor changes leading to amplified developments

The report also has a subsection specifically focusing on youth and their views, as future decisions about where to live and work for this group is highly influential on long-term demographic sustainability. What is the basis for future work life and family life in these places? Helene Pristed Nielsen, associate professor at Aalborg University, has led the study.

A main finding is that especially young women perceive local gender roles as more constrained or pre-defined than both the young men and the older generations – with the possible exception of the older Greenlandic women, who frequently concurred that local gender roles were too traditional. Almost universally, the young women saw very few career possibilities for themselves in their local communities”, she says.

Some of the report’s other main findings are that seasonal variation in workloads is most pronounced on Læsø (which also has the most developed tourism sector), family ties are important for settlement patterns especially in Suðuroy, whereas respondents in all three locations express a strong sense of belonging in place. Respondents in Narsaq are rather suspicious of externally driven development projects, but frequently highly supportive of local initiatives, the latter also characterising attitudes encountered on Læsø. Mobility is for obvious reasons most difficult in the Greenlandic context, but nevertheless, mobility is highly significant for both work lives and family life practices in all three locations.

The report points to six lessons learned from its analyses, which may have implication both at policy level but also locally for residents in debating how best to ensure viable demographic and economic future development in their locality. One of them is “the butterfly effect”.

“In small places, change can happen relatively quickly, and even minor changes have a tendency to develop amplified effects. For example, if you close a local workplace with only two or three jobs, this may mean that two or three local families will have to move away to ensure jobs for both parents. This may bring the number of children in the local school to a critical low. Furthermore, local sports clubs and associations are typically dependent on volunteers, and if people move away, it is difficult to recruit new volunteers. People tend to have many roles in small communities and can be difficult to replace”, says Helene Pristed Nielsen.

Read the report “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets – Equal opportunities for men and women in geographically isolated labour markets in Læsø (DK), Suðuroy (FO), and Narsaq (GL)”.

Six lessons derived from “Equality in Isolated Labour Markets”

  1. Interactions of gender and place: small places may fruitfully consider how gender and place interact locally, potentially limiting (perceived) options in the labour market
  2. Community networks: ensuring open and multiple local networks are paramount in supporting settlement/population retention
  3. Supporting entrepreneurial spirit: entrepreneurship benefits from overt support
  4. Prioritising ’the good life’: perceptions about ‘the good life’ often take presidency over perceived career possibilities when choosing where to settle
  5. Mobility strategies: mobility is part and parcel of place, especially small places
  6. Butterfly effects: because small places are small, even minor changes have a tendency to develop amplified effects

Nordic research on sexual harassment presented in new report

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major social problem in the Nordic countries. The many #MeToo calls for action during the autumn of 2017 in particular are testimony to this. Knowledge on this issue in the Nordic countries has been compiled for the first time in the report “Sexual harassment in the workplace – An overview of the research in the Nordic countries”.

The report outlines current knowledge about sexual harassment in the Nordic countries and identifies needs for additional knowledge. This research overview was produced by Nordic Information on Gender (NIKK) and commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers as the basis for a Nordic research initiative in the area. The Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, sees the report as an important step toward a society in which gender equality prevails, free from violence and harassment.

“This report offers an important overview of the gaps and indeed chasms in our factual knowledge of sexual harassment in the workplace. It highlights the importance of multidisciplinary research and of continuing Nordic collaboration on ending sexual harassment at work and other forms of violence against women and girls. Such violence is both the cause and consequence of wider gender inequalities and we have both a legal and a moral obligation to end it.”

Great need for more Nordic knowledge

The report charts how sexual harassment takes different forms in the workplace depending on the occupation. The report shows that, regardless of the industry investigated, the consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace are devastating for both individuals and organisations. Some common consequences are mental ill-health, sickness absence, diminished career opportunities, and burdensome staff turnover as a result of terminations.  Malin Svensson, PhD in child and youth studies, has written the report and in it she identifies the need for cross-sectoral knowledge.

“Sexual harassment can look different depending on the nature of the occupation, and experiences may differ between occupational groups, for example whether or not the employee’s physical body is central to performing their work. That is why we need cross-sectoral knowledge from many countries that can identify broader patterns in the Nordic labour market. The report also shows that a focus on gender and age is too narrow. We need knowledge about how gender, age, ethnicity and skin colour, functionality/disability, and sexual identity operate in tandem with the risks of being sexually harassed at work.”

The report also identifies the need for more and deeper knowledge about why sexual harassment occurs and about structural conditions that contribute to or prevent the incidence of sexual harassment if we are going to be able to understand and counter harassment. Malin Svensson identifies a number of key knowledge gaps where more research is needed to be able to tackle this social problem energetically.

“There is agreement within the research field that the number of unreported cases is high and that women, as well as other groups, who have been the victims of harassment do not report it for various reasons. We also need to know more about the perpetrators – who they are and what drives them to offend. There is also a need for more knowledge about the working conditions and conditions of employment that can constitute particular risk factors for being sexually harassed.

The research overview is based on a systematic review of the research and other relevant literature from the Nordic countries between the years 2014 and 2019. Read “Sexually harassed at work – an overview of the research in the Nordic countries” here.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland

New call for proposals to combat gender segregation in the Nordic labour market

This year, the Nordic Council of Ministers will be issuing a call for proposals from actors in the Nordic countries co-operating in projects aimed at combating gender segregation in the labour market. A total of DKK 4 million in funding will be distributed for up to four years to Nordic co-operation projects working for lasting change in this area.

In mid-August 2020, the Nordic Council of Ministers will open for applications containing proposals aimed at combating gender segregation in the labour market. Through this call, the Nordic Council of Ministers hopes to contribute to a more sustainable working life that makes the best use of the potential of all people.

Mogens Jensen, Denmark’s Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, points out that this issue is of great importance to all the Nordic countries.

“The Nordic countries have come a long way in terms of gender equality, and participation in the labour market is high among both women and men. But on the other hand, the labour market remains quite extensively gender-segregated, which has consequences for everyone, regardless of gender, in a variety of areas ranging from personal economy and power and influence to health and quality of life. That is why grants from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund are going to be distributed to projects aiming to tackle this problem.”

This initiative is particularly urgent in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as its consequences are impacted by the gender segregation in the labour market. Many hard-hit industries, such as health care, education, and transport, are very gender-segregated. This means that women and men are being impacted unequally by loss of income and changes in demand for labour and in working conditions.

Priority issue in Nordic co-operation

Combating gender segregation in the labour market is a strategic area of action in the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality 2019–2022.  This area encompasses a number of important aspects of gender equality including choice of education, working conditions, and freedom from sexual harassment. The programme is a unique opportunity to confront these challenges through Nordic co-operation and work for gender equality and a sustainable working life for everyone.

“It’s a unique initiative, and an area in which Nordic co-operation is highly relevant since the labour markets in the Nordic countries are structured in similar ways in many respects. We know that there is a great deal of expertise and willingness to drive development forward out there. And we hope that this will be reflected in the applications received,” says Mogens Jensen.

Susanna Young Håkansson

Young voices in focus during the Danish presidency

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, which is also making its mark in Nordic gender equality efforts. These efforts in the Nordic countries will have a strong international focus throughout the year, making room in particular for young people to get involved and set the agenda for the future.

This international focus will be felt in a number of ways during the year. For example, the Nordic countries will be contributing a significant joint program during the annual Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March. Young speakers will play a major role in the Nordic countries’ joint program.

“Many young people today were not even born when the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was written. It’s important to involve them and get their views on the issues that are important to them,” says Kira Appel, Deputy Head of the Department of Gender Equality in the Danish government.

The Beijing Platform for Action is a supplementary policy document to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It is formulated as a 12-point action plan and was adopted by the United Nations in 1995. Kira Appel describes the platform as a milestone in international gender equality efforts.

“It was something to unite around and the issues in it are still relevant. We need to maintain a focus on the implementation of the platform. But we must also listen to young people and highlight new issues that were not included in the platform,” she says.

After the conference in New York, later on in the spring, there will be a Nordic Youth Conference in Copenhagen focusing on young people’s visions for the future of gender equality policy. In order to further strengthen the voices of young people, the Nordic countries will also launch a campaign entitled #GenerationEqualityNordic that will be conducted in synergy with UN Women’s campaign #GenerationEquality.

Four priority areas

During 2020, Nordic cooperation on gender equality will be based on four priority areas. In addition to the international focus on the Beijing Platform for Action, particular attention will be paid to the areas of violence and harassment, men and gender equality, and LGBTI issues.

Nordic cooperation around LGBTI issues is still under construction. The Nordic Council of Ministers decided that these issues are to be managed in the area of gender equality and new funding has been earmarked for this.

“All of the Nordic countries are in agreement that LGBTI people constitute a group that is subject to discrimination and we can see that there is a benefit in cooperating and learning from each other,” says Kira Appel.

The first step being carried out now is mapping what can be done at the Nordic level. LGBTI organisations from all of the Nordic countries have been engaged in the process which is intended to lead to proposals for how the Nordic Council of Ministers can work on improving conditions for LGBTI people.

Masculinity in focus

During the year, the Nordic Council of Ministers will conduct a range of activities in the field of gender equality. In June, for example, a seminar will be held in Greenland on violence in intimate relationships and in September the Nordic Council of Ministers will be involved in organising international conferences in Estonia and Latvia. Later in the autumn, a conference will also be held on the manosphere on the internet: men organising themselves and cultivating hyper-conservative, misogynistic ideas about masculinity.

Issues related to masculinity and work to counter gender-based violence have had a given place in Nordic cooperation on gender equality for many years. According to Kira Appel, new issues keep turning up within these areas. She relates this to the forthcoming Commission on the Status of Women in New York:

“I think it’s important that in the Nordic countries, where we have worked with gender issues for a long time, we can highlight new problems as they emerge. I also hope that we will be able to highlight how important it is to continue to work with the Beijing Platform and counteract the backlash that is now apparent around the world,” she says.

Updated 31 March 2020