Sweden's gender equality barometer 2017 - Time, power and money

Welfare issues Sweden's gender equality barometer is a report that highlights conditions of work and family life from a class and gender perspective. The aim is to describe the material conditions and power resources that underlie the scope of action available to women and men in different social groups. Or as expressed in the Swedish government's gender equality policy objectives: the power to shape society and your own life.

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Time, power and money – conclusions and policy proposals

Gender equality surveys have long shown structural differences between women and men in general. But the challenges of work and family balance are different for women and men i blue-collar and white-collar groups. They share the challenges of time pressure and high workload, but the conditions of working life and family life reflect gender and classbased unequal distribution of time, power and money.

All in all, focusing on individual solutions to structural problems is insufficient for everyone. General welfare solutions, which benefit everyone, must be strengthened to have en effect and increase gender equality as well as reduce class-based inequality. Trade union and political strategies for increased equality must go hand in hand and be linked to concrete action. Time, power and money must be distributed more equally.

Time

Control over time and allocation of time between paid and unpaid work must be more evenly divided between women and men in blue-collar and white-collar occupations. To facilitate change, LO calls for:

  • Full-time as the norm throughout the whole labour market. The part-time norm in women-dominated blue-collar occupations must be put an end to. Tax-financed organisations must take the lead and the social partners must negotiate and investigate how full-time jobs can be implemented in the public sector.
  • Individualisation of parental leave benefits. The division of parental leave between mothers and fathers must be steered towards a gender equal take-up through changes in parental leave insurance. It is also important to find ways so that mothers and fathers allocate part-time work evenly between themselves when their children are small.
  • Guaranteed childcare covering inconvenient working hours and pre-school from the age of two. Municipalities should be obliged to offer childcare during evenings and weekends to better cater to the needs of blue-collar parents. Pre-school should be introduced from the age of two and children of parents who are on parental leave and unemployed should be entitled to childcare/pre-school for at least 30 hours per week.
  • Reinforcement of social equality through initiatives for high-quality and jointly taxfinanced welfare services. In addition to improvements in childcare, access to elderly care must be guaranteed. Elderly care is particularly important for women’s labour force participation, employment and full-time work. Access to homes for the elderly must improve.
  • Abolished tax subsidies for private household services. Privatised household services do not meet the demands for improved welfare services nor do they address the employment or gender equality issues. Instead, general welfare solutions are effective in providing high-quality welfare services as well as in decreasing gender and class-based inequality.

Power

Power and influence over work must be more equally distributed between employees and employers, so that women and men in blue-collar and white-collar occupations have secure and sound working conditions. To facilitate change, LO calls for:

  • Increased job security. The insecurity of women-dominated blue-collar occupations must cease. Time-limited, i.e. fixed-term, employment contracts, should only be allowed if there are objective reasons for a time-limitation. Repeated, consecutive, short-term time-limited contracts with the same employer should be abolished.
  • Improved preventive health and safety work. Politicians and employers must take greater responsibility for health and safety at work. Working life and work environment research, from a gender and class perspective, must be guaranteed to improve working conditions to enable blue-collar women (and men) to work until retirement age. Therefore, there must be special research initiatives directed towards small workplaces and women-dominated sectors.
  • Women's power over work must be strengthened through more human and economic resources in the public sector. Substantial public investment is needed in healthcare, education and social services. New Public Management must also be reviewed and replaced. The forms of governance of these important welfare state institutions must support professionalism and employee influence as they are a foundation of quality in welfare services.

Money

Money must be more equally distributed between women and men in blue-collar and white-collar occupations. To facilitate change, LO calls for:

  • Social partners to prioritise high and increased minimum wages. One of LO's long-term wage policy targets is that all collectively agreed minimum wage levels for adults, who are not in training, must correspond to at least 75 per cent of the average monthly wage for blue-collar workers.
  • Social partners to take considerably greater responsibility for gender equal pay. LO must be a driving force to ensure redistribution, recognition and upgrading of women's work. In this, it is important to reduce value-discrimination stemming from wage differentials between women-dominated and men-dominated blue-collar occupations.
  • The Swedish government to pursue policy that leads to gender equal economic conditions. The Government’s objective for economic gender equality is that women and men shall have the same opportunities and conditions regarding paid work, which provides economic independence throughout life. This entails obligations and requires a gender equality policy agenda that also leads to greater equality in terms of class.

Read the whole summary of LO's gender equality report of 2017 “Sweden's gender equality barometer – Time, power and money” (pdf).