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New OECD report: Nordic gender equality boosts GDP growth

The steady increase of women in the labour market can account for 10–20 per cent of the Nordic region’s GDP per capita growth in the past 40–50 years, according to a new OECD report.


Almost three out of four women in the Nordic region work. This does not only make the Nordics the most gender-equal region in the world, but also an economic powerhouse.

Since the 1960s, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have actively pursued policies to ensure that both women and men can participate fully in the labour market.

Investing in working parents pays off

Extensive access to childcare, paid parental leave for mums and dads and flexible workplaces, have helped reduce gender gaps in employment so that they are now the smallest in the OECD – at about 4 percentage points compared to the OECD average of 12 percentage points.

In a new report, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the OECD looks at the effects of these work-life policies on Nordic economic growth, as well as potential gains from closing remaining gender gaps in the future.

Comparing with Canada and the US

In the report, the economic gains of women’s employment growth in the Nordic countries are put side by side with those in other OECD countries, like Canada, Germany, Japan, and the US.

– Most OECD countries have made little progress in getting closer to gender equality goals in recent years, but we do have some champions leading the way. The Nordics have a long-standing commitment to gender equality, and this has significantly benefitted their economies, says Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD.

The Nordics still have to complete the last mile

However, there are still issues to iron out – and the potential for further economic gains.

The OECD points out that the Nordic region still has some way to go when it comes to increasing the share of women in management positions. The region is still grappling with occupational segregation in the labour market, the gender pay gap, as well as gender inequalities in working hours.

Large potential future gains

According to the report, encouraging women to increase their paid working hours so that gender gaps in both participation and working hours disappear completely by 2040, would boost the economy by an additional 15-30 per cent GDP per capita growth in the Nordic countries.

Nordic potential gains are large indeed, but small compared with some other OECD-countries:

 Foto: Nordiska ministerrådet
Latest updated 20 November 2019