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Kyle Monk Blend Images/NewscomNordic countries beat the United States at a host of measures related to gender equality. But while this is widely believed to be an effect of their social welfare policies, ample data suggest that women in these countries thrive in spite of heavy-handed government policies, not because of them.
"While Nordic societies are indeed role models when it comes to gender equality, this equality stretches back centuries before the modern welfare state and reflects traditional Nordic culture," writes Nima Sanandaji in the intro to a new look at the "glass ceiling" in Nordic countries.
In analyzing the effects of corporate gender quotas and other popular Nordic policies, Sanandaji—a Kurdish-Swedish policy analyst and the president of the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform—observes what a good deal of recent scholarship has been showing: that "the rise of the Nordic welfare state has been a double-edged sword" for feminism, "creating some benefits for women's careers, but also creating barriers to women's professional progress."
Nordic countries can trace some of their workforce quirks to their large public sector, which "has been both positive and negative for women," writes Sanandaji:
WHO Global Gender Gap Index Data/ENBIt played an important historical role in women's entry into the labor market because many women entered through the expanding public sector. Public-sector services also facilitated the combination of work and the fulfilment of family responsibilities. The expansion of the public sector partly explains why Nordic nations reached a high employment rate among women earlier than other Western countries and stayed that way. The provision of public daycare was particularly important in this regard.
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