Launch of the report “Is the Last Mile the Longest?” Nordic Gender Effect at work - OECD Social Policy Ministerial Meeting
Remarks by Angel Gurría
14 May 2018 - Montreal, Canada
(As prepared for delivery)
Minister Strandhäll, Ms. Jorgensen, Ministers, honoured guests,
I am delighted to present the report “Is the Last Mile the Longest? Economic Gains from Gender Equality in Nordic Countries” and would like to commend the Nordic Council of Ministers for this important initiative.
Gender equality is a keystone for sustainable, inclusive growth. Yet, as our report highlights, The Pursuit of Gender Equality often turns out to be An Uphill Battle.
Nordic countries are the champions in gender equality
But the Nordic countries are an inspiration in this battle, with female employment rates in 2016 ranging from 68% to 83%, well above the 59% OECD average.
The Nordic policy approach is not only about supporting women. It aims to encourage all men and women to participate fully in paid work. Nordic countries provide a continuum of support to families with children, consisting of generous paid leave for new parents; subsidised and high-quality early childhood education and care; and out-of-school-hours care.
This long-standing commitment to gender equality has yielded results for the economy. Cutting the gender gap in employment rates and working hours by 2040 could help boost future GDP per capita growth in Nordic countries by as much as 15-30%.
Challenges and recommendations to close the gender gap
But the last mile on the path to gender equality may well be the longest. Famous for their “daddy months”, Icelandic and Swedish fathers still use less than 30% of all paid leave days. Moving towards fully-individualised paid parental leave might bring an even better sharing of paid and unpaid work. Many women struggle to move into management positions and there are persistent gender pay gaps – ranging from 6% in Denmark to 18% in Finland. Pay transparency initiatives, such as the scheme introduced in Iceland, can help make further progress.
Policies can also help deconstruct gender norms, for example by addressing early in life gender bias on STEM performance and careers, which is why the OECD is working with Norway to analyse factors contributing to gender disparities in school achievement.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Malene Rydahl, the author of “Happy as a Dane”, revealed one of the secrets that contributes to Denmark’s high ranking in happiness indexes: their gender policies do not only focus on liberating women, but also on freeing men, and allowing them to choose their role as workers; as caring, present fathers.
Let’s benefit from the good practices and lessons learnt. The OECD stands ready to help achieve full gender equality in the Nordic economies and societies. We mind the gap. Now it’s time to bridge it.
OECD work on Inclusive Growth