Jabir Al Fatah

The improvement of Information and Communication technology has changed the way we view and feel the world around us. It has influenced our lives, karma, decision we make, and almost all aspects of our life. Perhaps the biggest change has happened in our society, especially in the west. It has reduced the gender discrimination, have made women possible to contribute the global economy. In this article, I will discuss the current scenarios (statistics) of women’s activity in work force in Sweden, along the main trends of Globalization. I will also describe the recent trends of gender pay gap in Sweden, official policies of equality, and the actual practice (or implementation) of the gender equality in labour market. Through my research and analysis, I will establish the answer whether women earn more than man in work field or not.

Since the mid- 1960s, women have been actively participating in labour market in Sweden, including many other European countries. Their interests and enthusiasms towards the global economy have brought positive changes in the society. This changes in the role of women have become the driving force behind their participation rates in labour force. However, discrimination on the basis of gender such as pay gap between man and women has become a concern. Although Sweden has come so far in gender equality role model, there are rooms for improvement. The wage gaps in workforce happens due to several reasons, for example different skill levels (e.g. a female gynaecologist is considered as more skilled than a man), distinctive educational qualification (e.g. a man is far better in studying and practicing science & technologies than a woman). Because of this traditional mindset within the recruiters, both genders are affected by the wage gap in their works.

Swedish economy started expanding in a grate rate after the 1960s. There was a great need for employee in the labour force. Society realized that the best ways to supply labour was to make it easier for women to be gainfully employed and that equal opportunities between men and women was to be accomplished [1]. More so, many social reforms were implemented in the 1970s. The breakthrough of the two-earner system in Sweden was supported by several social reforms with direct influence on individuals’ choices concerning employment and household labour (Björnberg, 2004) [1]. Today, however, the women’s participation rate doesn’t differ very much than men.

The 1980’s became a period of extensive deregulation in Sweden, and as a result of this, by the end of the 1980’s, the country was a full participant in a world of free capital movement and highly liberalised service trade [4]. Or in another word, it was the profound beginning of the development of increasing involvement of enterprises in international markets. Globalisation has forever changed the prerequisites for Swedish economy and its urge to add women in the workforce. Over the past few decades, the companies established in Sweden have increasingly had the whole world as a field of operation. All kinds of companies’ procedures such as production, recruitment, import-export, partnership and ownership are currently held internationally. Because of this rapidly growing business all over the world, Swedish labour market has required a huge number of skilled manpower more than ever, to keep their industrialized economy alive. Obviously, this has opened a new era for women’s movement around the world. Moreover, because of the advent of internet of things, outsourcing and freelancing have become popular sources of income for female, as it allows working remotely (i.e. working from home).

From the international perspective, women’s participation in labour force in Sweden is relatively higher than many other countries. In 2013, nearly 69% of women (between age 1574) joined the labour force, which is a slight increase compared with 2009 [3]. The percentage of full-time female worker has also increased over time.

According to the statistics [1], the activity rate among men has decreased since the 1960s, while the activity rate among women has risen up almost 40%. However, especially during the first part of the decade of 1990s, the activity rate decreased. The activity rate of men was 85% in 1990, and decreased to 77% in 2001. For women, the activity rate has decreased from 81% in 1990 to around 73% in 2001.

According to another survey [2] conducted by EU commission in 2013, women’s employment rate in Sweden (71.8%) was the highest in the EU member states and consequently above the EU member states average (58.6%). Thus, obviously, women joined in the labour market nearly to the same degree as men (75.6%) in Sweden. The male and female employment rate in Sweden differs only by 3.8 percentage points in 2012 and it continued its stability. As it is quoted from the paper:
“The development and acceptance of the female workforce has turned Sweden into the leading country with regards to gender equality within the European peer group.”
However, it has not been entirely confirmed that women in Sweden always work under gender equality policies concerning gender pay differentials. Practicing equal pay policy is one of the most important challenges for society and government. There have been many debates and proposals on how to promote gender equality in working life and to reduce the pay gap between women and men [3]. Ministry of Education and Research in Sweden [3] has revealed the most important reason for gender pay differentials. Their studies say, ‘gender segregation in the labour market (i.e. that women are found in certain professions and industries, while men are found in others) is one of the leading factors for this discrimination. During the period between the end of the First World War (1914–18) and the beginning of the Second World War (1939– 45) gender pay gap closed suddenly, and in the 1960s and 1970s. However, since 1980s this trend has interrupted. Between 1994 and 2012, the overall pay gap between female and male fallen by 2 percentage points; in 1994, female earned 84% of what male earned, and in 2013 female earned 87% of what male earn [2]. Since 2005, the pay differentials have decreased by 5.2 percentage points in the central government sector, as well as corresponding decrease was 2.5 percentage points in the private sector during the same time [3].

However, Ministry of Education and Research Sweden [3] admits that the Swedish government has implemented some leading actions to reduce pay differentials in the central government sector. Some examples are: programme for women's career development in the central government sector and a commission to the Equality Ombudsman (DO) to expand supervision and promotion efforts regarding employers' work to map [3].

Since 2009, the Government have been raised its ambition with respect to gender equality in regional growth efforts financed with central government funds and EU funds. Such ambitions are as consultation and economic support, business, professional development etc. The government’s goal is to ensure that women and men have the same opportunity and access to resources within regional growth efforts, regardless of their backgrounds. This way the contribution such as generating innovative ideas and entrepreneurship to the whole nation can be achieved. Also, Anti-discrimination legislation covers prohibitions and obligations for employers to take active measures against unwarranted pay differentials based on gender [3].

In 2009-2013, nearly 40 million SEK was invested for Civil Society Guides from the Swedish Government. The goal of supporting these guides was for their top activities to inspire the residents of areas with a lower number of organisations (e.g. with young people and women) to have contact with civil society organisations in different sectors. Over the years, many of the projects run by MUCF (Myndigheten för ungdoms- och civilsamhällesfrågor) has concentrated on women and girls. The results of the investment have shown, among other things, that dialogue on attitudes and values with parents has a significant impact on young women especially being given the opportunity or access to participate in associations, local democratic processes, and community development [3].

Now, the fact is whether the government has imposed some influential rules to maintain gender equality in workforce or not does not make a great deal unless the rules and regulations are practiced in the real sectors. Besides, it is very common to have conflicts between the official imposed laws and their implementations.

According to Swedish Discrimination Act-2008, all companies that consists of 25 or more workers are obliged to conduct a survey and analysis of pay differences between two genders, and this needs to be done in every three years. This includes payment methods and practices, and work that is equal or of an equal value. By doing so, companies have less chance to impose improper gender differences in salary and other terms of recruitments. Not only that- employers are also required to draw up an action plan for equal pay that sets out the pay adjustments and other measures that need to be taken to bring about equal pay for work of an equal value [5]. The implementation of the wage surveys has been evaluated with some very interesting outcomes. This has been very important to trade union negotiations with employers as it has helped to make pay data more transparent and gender pay differences visible [5].

Svensson and Gunarsson (2012) has stated in their research paper [6]: the prevention of discrimination and the implementation of active measures to achieve gender equality do not always sit comfortably with each other and when in conflict within the legal system, it seems easier to hold to the former than the latter. This is illustrated under the case in which a policy that obliged the use of positive action to improve the rate of employment for the under-represented sex among Swedish university professors, was considered by the European Court of Justice. The Court regarded the ordinance as discriminatory because it judged it to be coercived to the advantage of women; this outcome following the practice elaborated in several previous cases [6]. The authors have identified very important reason why the maintaining gender equality causes conflict: in order to achieve gender equality, there are still big challenges to face, because the tension between radical active measures and conservative passive guarantees of equal treatment operates at both national and international level.

The main sub-objectives (along with the obligations for states) of antidiscrimination is to include the principle of the equality between male and female in their constitutions (or other legislation), have counterparts in the Swedish constitutions [6]. As Sweden transformed the male-breadwinner to a dual-breadwinner model, it may be judged to have gone a long League was an active campaigning force in the late 1960s and 1970s. But one of its most important original demands for the six-hour day was not met by the body of legislation that transformed women’s labour market participation because of opposition from the trade union movement [7].

As it is seen from the figure 1 (a), with all the educations level women’s wage is always lower than men. Although the gaps increase as the education level becomes higher, there is no significant improvement is observed. The only interesting pattern is that the higher the education level is, the higher the salary becomes per month. In the figure 1 (b), the annual earning gap is depicted according to the survey of Luxemburg’s cross national data centre. Although this graph does not say the actual gap in number, it still represents that there is wage gap between male and female in Sweden, where men earn more than women. Surprisingly this gap is very lower than many other EU countries.

Figure 2 shows in depth statistics among varieties work fields in Sweden. All the sectors have wage gaps whether in big or small scales. Luckily, the differentials has decreased over time, as it noticeable that in 2013 the all sectors has only 5% differential than the other years (between 2008 and 2013) except 2012.

The figure above shows the earning gaps as per municipalities, with having the notion that the gaps may depend on different regions. I have not noticed any municipality that has higher wage for women than men.

In my earlier discussion, I argued that the income gap between male and female is decreasing over time (i.e. between 1994 and 2012, the overall pay gap between female and male fallen by 2 percentage points), and this is nonetheless true. But the findings that has shocked me is almost in every sectors, with all kinds of educational level, even in all the municipalities, there is a significant gap in income between man and women (or in another words, men earn more than women), whether is the monthly or annual ratio of the salary.

[1] Björnberg U, Dahlgren L. Labour supply: The case of Sweden. https://www.york.ac.uk/inst/spru/research/nordic/swedenlabo.pdf (accessed 10 November 2016).
[2] European Commission. The current situation of gender equality in Sweden – Country Profile . http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/epo_campaign/131006_countryprofile_sweden.pdf (accessed 10 November 2016).
[3] Ministry of Education and Research Sweden. Sweden’s follow-up of the Platform for Action from the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995). http://www.regeringen.se/contentassets/b2f5cc340526433f8e33df3024d510e3/swedensfollow-up-of-the-platform-for-action-from-the-uns-fourth-world-conference-on-women-inbeijing-1995---covering-the-period-between-20092014 (accessed 10 November 2016).
[4] Jakobsson U. The Globalisation of Swedish Economy. https://www.svensktnaringsliv.se/migration_catalog/Rapporter_och_opinionsmaterial/Rappor ters/the-globalisation-of-swedisheconomy_532887.html/BINARY/The%20Globalisation%20of%20Swedish%20Economy (accessed 10 November 2016).
[5] European Commission. Workplace practices – company equality plans and surveys. http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/gender-pay-gap/depth-info/collectiverole/collective-practices/index_en.htm (accessed 15 November 2016).
[6] Gothenburg University Library. http://gup.ub.gu.se/records/fulltext/162723/162723.pdf (accessed 22 November 2016).
[7] Lewis J. GENDER AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF WELFARE REGIMES. http://esp.sagepub.com/content/2/3/159.full.pdf (accessed 22 November 2016).
[8] Elborgh-Woytek K, Newiak M, Kochhar K, Fabrizio S, et al. Women, Work, and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2013/sdn1310.pdf (accessed 22 November 2016).
[9] Moreland D. Are there Gaps in Swedish Gender Wage Gap Research? A Meta-Analytical Approach. http://lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download?func=downloadFile&recordOId=7373905&fileOId=73739 12 (accessed 23 November 2016).
[10] Göthberg J, Rickardsson J. The Gender Wage Gap - In Swedish Municipalities. http://www.diva-portal.se/smash/get/diva2:816178/FULLTEXT01.pdf (accessed 23 November 2016).

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