Norway’s high birth rates and gender-neutral conscription are underpinned by gender equality policies
Norway is famous for salmon, petroleum, and gender equality. Since 2003, Norway has enforced a law requiring a 40% share of female board members in large private firms and public enterprises. Many European countries have worked to embrace a ‘Norwegian model.’ Recently, the Norwegian Parliament adopted a resolution urging the government to legislate gender-neutral conscription. Norway is considered to be one of the most gender equal countries in the world. Today, the government remains committed to introducing new policies to enhance gender parity. Last month, Women news team visited Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway.
On August 19th, Women News had an interview with Deputy Director General Hege Nygard Wetland. She answered, “Every political party supports gender equality policies.” Before a parliamentary election on September 9, the Conservatives have been competing against Norway’s ruling Labor party and its center-left coalition partners to win votes. Despite such competition, the overall direction of gender policies remains the same.
Wetland added, “Every government agency and society as a whole share responsibilities to promote gender equality. We understand the importance of implementing relevant policies. For instance, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Education cooperate to achieve similar goals such as increasing women’s labor force participation.”
Incorporating gender perspectives in policies not only increased women’s labor participation rate but also fertility rate. In 2011, Norway’s fertility rate(births per woman of childbearing age) was 1.88. Meanwhile, women’s labor participation rate recorded 79%, far exceeding OECD’s average 62%. Wetland explained, “Gender parity played a vital role in increasing Norway’s GDP by 16% compared to the 1970s.”
When decline in fertility rates and working population emerged as social problems, the Norwegian government began to implement gender equality policies including the enactment of Gender Equality Act in 1978 and the provision of child-care benefits. In addition, the government introduced a paternal quota for paid parental leave in 1993 and set a gender quota for female board members in 2003.
Wetland said, “To make the workplace more women-friendly, we are working to offer a more efficient parental leave scheme, expand public child care facilities, guarantee an hour of breast-feeding time in the workplace, and introduce a leave to care for sick children. Across the government, we are focused on promoting gender parity in schools and the workplace.”