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4. A gender-equal labor market

A distributed labor market

The Swedish labor market is not yet equitable or gender-equal. There are major differences between women and men regarding salaries, conditions and opportunities to influence one’s work situation. Throughout society man is the norm, and working life is no exception.

Even at school, gender roles break through. Norms for what is male and what is female govern what programs and job categories are chosen by girls and by boys. A gender-segregated labor market confirms sex roles and stereotype notions of what is feminine and what masculine. Women born outside Europe have higher unemployment than other groups. This increases segregation. Equitable and gender-equal workplaces are a gain for the whole of society.

Working life and family life

To reach the goal of full employment and economic independence for women, women’s participation in working life needs to be increased. Sustainable working life, in balance among family, working life and free time is a precondition for this.

In the past few years care of relatives has increased appreciably, and it is chiefly women who take responsibility for care within close relationships. There is a link to a reduced public sector, and for this reason a review is needed to extend this.

We live in a gendered power structure where women bear the main burden of unpaid work. Inequitable family circumstances affect the labor market. Regarding parental leave, women take about 75 percent of parental days; during the first two years of a child’s life as much as 90 percent. That women are more absent from work means that all women, including those without children, are viewed as labor risks.

Sweden’s most recent major labor market reform was when the 40-hour week was introduced in 1973. This was a result of the labor movement’s struggle for redistribution and liberation. That was 44 years ago. S-kvinnor considers it high time to change the overall norm and is therefore working to introduce a 30-hour week as the norm. This is an important reform for better health, reduced sick-leave rates, lower unemployment and more free time. It is moreover an important reform in terms of gender equality.

A completely individualized parental insurance strengthens women’s role on the labor market, men’s role as fathers and children’s right to parents. This is a precondition for gender-equal family life and working life.

Women’s working conditions

Many problems on today’s labor market are linked clearly to women’s work situation. Women have more insecure employment conditions, irregular working hours, split shifts, part-time contracts and work-related ill-health.

Full-time as the norm must apply to the whole labor market. General temporary employment as a labor form, and split shifts, must be abolished.

Employers must set a higher priority on work-environmental issues. Women’s sick-leave rates are rising alarmingly, mainly through mental ill-health brought on by increasing stress and poor work environment. In occupations where women predominate it is important to develop coworkers’ empowerment, right to in-service training and rehabilitation where required.

Together with the labor market partners, S-kvinnor wishes to develop labor-environment work and counter discrimination. Directed efforts are needed to help women with difficulties in entering the labor market. All must have access to lifelong learning. The possibility to update, validate and supplement one’s education must therefore be improved in all sectors.

To achieve a gender-equal labor market we must also have labor-equal representation in leading positions in both the public sector and the private sector. The whole salary and half the power must become reality throughout the labor market.

The gender-unequal labor market results in women having appreciably lower incomes throughout life than men do. This also affects women’s pensions, many women today receiving only the minimum guaranteed pension. Many women today are living below the EU poverty-line. The pension system needs to be overhauled to achieve gender-equal pensions.

Welfare as workplace

A growing and ageing population enlarges welfare’s undertaking while at the same time competition for people of working age is growing. To manage this great recruitment challenge, welfare occupations and work places need to be attractive.

Where municipalities and county councils must rely on manning companies to manage their activities, there are consequences for patient security, quality and economy, while major staff turnover affects the work environment negatively.

Our public sector, which is governed democratically, must be a model of gender-equal salaries, working conditions, work environment, in-service training and career opportunities. When this is so, good conditions are created both for men and for women to select welfare organizations as their workplace.

Women in leading positions

The prospects for attaining a leading position differ in different sections of the public sector. For example, women in leading positions are generally responsible for many employees. Conditions must be gender-equal and the organizational preconditions for good leadership must be developed.

In both the public and the private sectors more women must reach leading position. Not least on company boards, women’s representation must be increased.

S-kvinnor’s demands:
  • Abolish irrelevant salary differences between women and men.
  • Full-time as the norm must be a statutory right.
  • Abolish general temporary employment as a form of appointment and abolish split shifts.
  • Parental insurance must become individualized by 2020 at the latest.
  • Actively examine and promote the issue of a shortened full-time norm.
  • More stringent requirements on employers for a good working environment.
  • Genus knowledge must be included in work environment regulations.
  • Legislate on quotas on company boards.
  • Encourage school pupils to choose programs that will break down the gender-divisions in the labor market.
  • A national action plan to be produced for women who have long been outside the labor market.
  • Good working conditions, work environment, equitable salaries and in-service training and rehabilitation must be offered in all sectors. The public sector must lead with a good example.
  • Give women in leading positions the right conditions to develop good leadership.
  • The whole pension system must be overhauled.
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