“Gender equality leads to growth”
Korea still has a long way to go
While discussing the concept of creative economy, Lars Danielsson, the Swedish Ambassador to Korea said “You can sustain growth by utilizing the talents of men and women.” He highlighted “Gender equality is a fundamental and basic building block for further growth.”
On June 5, The Women’s News interviewed Danielsson at his office in Junggu, Seoul. He is quoted as saying “Korea’s birth rate continues to fall, while there is a growing influx of immigrants. In the near future, there will be a labor shortage. To promote growth, everyone should be able to work, particularly women who had to leave work for various reasons.”
In the eyes of the Swedish ambassador, gender equality was a critical issue. He mentioned “There were no women candidates for the 17 key posts for the recent local elections in Korea. This attests to the fact that Korea still has a long way to go before attaining gender equality. Starting with politics, Korean women should fight for equality. Indeed, they have the right to do so. A new horizon will shed light on new kinds of wants and needs. In realizing such equality, men have an important role to play. For instance, men would qualify for the Minister of Gender Equality and Family.”
He believes gender equality promotes growth. He stressed “The Swedish government has recognized that people want to work and that they have the right to labor. The right should be enjoyed by both men and women. Guaranteeing this right is a first step towards gender equality.”
According to Danielsson, tax reforms should be a priority. “In Sweden, the government imposes tax on individuals, motivating people to work. My wife and I have separate tax bills. Her tax bill does not cover my income, and vice versa.”
Also, working mothers can benefit from the government’s child care system. He explained “25 years ago, the central government legislated for providing child care. Now, every local government has a legal obligation to offer high-quality, full-time care for children between the ages of 18 months and 7 years.”
Consequently, in Sweden, there is an even distribution of women’s employment across age groups and the country’s birth rate is among the highest in Europe. Reflecting such achievements, Sweden ranked fourth in the Global Gender Gap Report 2012 published by the World Economic Forum.
As for companies, he emphasized the importance of undergoing trials and errors and accepting numerous failures. “The creative economy is based on a belief that it is okay to make mistakes. Creativity comes from open minds that are willing to go through the pain of trial-and-error. As a saying goes, failure is the mother of success.”
Underscoring a point that the Korean government should tap into the potential of SMEs and pave the way toward the creative economy, he said “Korea’s future lies in the hands of small and medium-sized companies. Large companies like Samsung and Hyundai buy ideas at an early stage. However, from long-term perspectives, they need to wait until SMEs build on their ideas and gain competitiveness.” That is why these days, whenever he meets large business representatives, he tells them “Don't buy immediately,” or “Wait, let them grow, develop their ideas.”
The Swedish government has taken the lead in promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. The Swedish Foreign Office has the CSR Ambassador, a special post working with CSR. All the hard work paid off. According to RobecoSAM’s national sustainability assessment in 2013, Sweden ranked first among 59 countries.
Born in 1953, Lars Danielsson graduated from the University of Gotheburg and received his degree in Public Administration. Starting his career at the Swedish Embassy in China in 1981, Ambassador Danielsson served as the United Nations Adviser on Foreign Affairs, the Secretary to Prime Minister for Political and Foreign Affairs, and the Ambassador of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2008, he was the Consulate General of Sweden in Hong Kong and Macau. Since September 2011, he has served as the Swedish Ambassador to Korea.