Thursday, September 23, 2004

Behind the Swedish experiment

Evidence by a LSE academic that Swedish socialism may not be working as hoped

What we all expect - but what is never actually said - about Sweden and countries such as Norway and Denmark is that because they have such a forward-thinking attitude to the needs of working parents, women have a much better deal, are able to work more effectively and to progress better. Wrong, wrong and wrong again, says Hakim. "Swedish women don't have it made - they still end up paying a price in terms of their career or employment. What you find, if you look closely at the figures, is that there is a pay threshold in Nordic countries below which are 80% of all women, and above which are 80% of all men.
What is more, the glass ceiling problem is larger in family-friendly Sweden than it is in the hire-and-fire-at-will US, and it has also grown as family-friendly policies have expanded. In Sweden 1.5% of senior management are women, compared with 11% in the US
...It is difficult, says Hakim, to get accurate figures, but she reckons that Swedish women are paid around 20% less than Swedish men - a similar pay difference to the one that exists in the UK. Interestingly, other EU countries with a lower pay gap don't show a correlation with better family-friendly packages: Italy has a 15% pay gap, Spain a 12% gap and Belgium and Portugal an 8% gap. None of these countries is held up as providers of great family-friendly packages - indeed, some of them, including Portugal, have systems in place that are not only a great deal less generous than that of Sweden, but also a lot less accessible.


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