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Minister: housewives threaten EU economy

Minister: housewives threaten EU economy

Published: 08 Mar 2011 11:16 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Mar 2011 11:16 GMT+01:00

The housewife is becoming a threat to European growth, according to Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden’s EU Minister.

Speaking Monday at a seminar for women in business organised by Swedish business publication Veckans Affärer, Ohlsson discussed the difficulties European women face today in combining children and their career.

Although the majority of all new graduates and almost half of all new PhDs in the EU are women, these numbers are not reflected in the job market.

Instead, women are often forced to stay at home because of an undeveloped childcare and geriatric care system. Also problematic are higher taxes for families with two working adults.

Faced with these difficulties, many women choose not to have children, which Ohlsson sees as totally unacceptable.

“This will make Europe a Jurassic Park filled with old men,” she said.

Nativity figures are dropping in parts of Europe due to the difficulty of combining work with having children.

In order to combat this drop, the EU is considering legislation on maternity leave. However, these reforms have been met with anger from women's groups worried that it will lead to more women staying at home.

According to Ohlsson, changing the rules for parental leave is more important for the EU than making sure that there is gender equity in Europe's boardrooms.

She added that the difficulties for women to combine children and career is also detrimental to Europe.

With more women encouraged to work, the European GDP could increase by as much as 27 percent, she said.

Moreover, she said it is impossible for things to continue as they are today.

“Having your own money is a source of both power and independence for women”, Ohlsson said.

New figures from the Swedish Public Employment Service, (Arbetsförmedlingen) show that 229,000 more men than women are in gainful employment today.

“The gap hasn’t been this wide for the last 20 years," Lena Liljebäck, acting head of jobs agency told LO Tidningen, the publication of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO).

During the financial crisis more men than women lost their jobs in Sweden. But today the industries traditionally dominated by men are growing faster, resulting in more new job opportunities created for men than women.

According to LO Tidningen, part of the explanation for the higher unemployment figures for women in Sweden is likely due to an increase in the number of women born outside the country, a group which traditionally has had a higher jobless rate.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:26 March 8, 2011 by Already in use
Nativity figures are dropping in parts of Europe due to the difficulty of filling out all those dam*ed forms that Försäkringskassan keeps sending rather than the over-overdue föräldrapenning.
13:14 March 8, 2011 by xavidx
My wife stays home with the small one because Dagis is very bad and overcrowded.
14:11 March 8, 2011 by lordsandwich
Has anybody thought that some women (and some men as well) enjoy staying at home, seeing their children grow up? Isn't that also a worthy aim for life? I don't like the sniggering of professional, working woman towards those that choose to bring up children. Neither do I like the way men that stay at home, caring for their children are ridiculed.

On an economic note: surely what the minister had said would only be true if we had full employment and a lack of workers. Given that there's already an oversupply of labour, an increase of 30% will simply drive wages down due to competition.
17:10 March 8, 2011 by spidernik84
It's all about GDP, always. That stupid parameter by which every time I crash my car I theoretically make the society wealthier.

Really, what about just considering life and attention towards children more important than the bare money? Is a children seen just as a replacement for old men and women in the system, just a "spare part"?

To me it seems just ridiculous that we're trading our children's future with money. We're already parking them in the dagis and schools or in front of a TV because we don't have time for them, what's next?
18:57 March 8, 2011 by jackx123
omg another politician that needs a brain check. GDP is all about money in circulation. one can very simply boost the gdp, as sweden has in the past, by having more people on the dole.

unless there is non-government work, this utterly dumb comment from a minister, paid for by the tax payers and, yes is part of the gdp, belongs in a bar after midnight twhen everyone is to drunk to pay any attention.

the question is: where will the new non-governemnt jobs come from and how will they be created.

i thought i had seen a lot and heard a lot but this is a gold medal winner.
19:30 March 8, 2011 by mkvgtired
@lordsandwich, "an increase of 30% will simply drive wages down due to competition." Right you are, but if all housewives could hypothetically enter the workplace at once hopefully some would become entrepreneurs.

I find it amazing how little politicians know about economics. Kind of scary considering they are the ones making decisions that hugely affect the economy. It seems like this ignorance crosses borders 99% of the time.
21:30 March 8, 2011 by StockholmSam
Since she was speaking at Swedish business publication Veckans Affärer, none of this is surprising; she was preaching to the choir. Of course Veckans Affärer prioritizes working mothers over real mothers; they want more cogs for the great economic machine. Modern slavery is what it is.

My opinion is that we ought to devote more resources toward getting parents to stay home and raising kids into solid adults rather than getting more parents out of the homes. Many problem kids in school have two working parents; the kids feel rudderless and the parents are too tired to do anything about it.

In the end, Birgitta Ohlsson is a politician, aka not a real worker. And her husband is a PhD and lecturer of Law at Stockholm University, which is a much cushier and less taxing "job" than housewife. I mean the man has spent the majority of his life studying and talking about law. Sorry, but neither of these two clowns qualify as real workers in my book. Maybe this woman ought to find real jobs (with real wages) for herself and her husband and then she can speak up about the need to get mothers out of the home.
21:57 March 8, 2011 by johnny1939
Hail to the housewife!!!!!!! She is a true saint.
22:02 March 8, 2011 by byke
I am proud to be in a relationship where my wife stays at home and ensures a good environment for our children. We may not have the latest car, tv phone etc .... but what we do have is a stable home situation where dinner is always on the table, children that take an active interest in family conversations etc.

So I greatly appreciate my wife for her part in helping keeping the family clean, fed and happy to be together.
22:20 March 8, 2011 by Rebel
So if the EU is so desperate for children then why not make it EASIER for women to stay at home and have babies if that is what they want to do?
22:22 March 8, 2011 by krrodman
The "Law of Unintended Consequences" strikes again. As the standard of living has improved across industrialized Europe, families are now wealthy enough to elect to have one member, typically the mother, stay at home to raise the children rather than work.

The social planners are apoplectic over this situation for several reasons: First, and foremost, in the socialist utopian state everyone will find fulfillment through work rather than through the mundane task of raising children. Social planners cannot begin to understand that some people might find great joy in staying at home.(In any case, shouldn't it be the choice of the individual rather than the state?) And, of course, a core truth of the modern socialist world is that men and women are equivalent, interchangeable worker units. What happens to modern socialism if women elect to stay at home, and as a result more men are in the work place?

The obvious solution to the problem is to make families poorer. That can be accomplished easily by increasing taxes, a favorite socialist trick. With less money, women will be forced to return to the workplace, and socialists everywhere will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
00:15 March 9, 2011 by waffen
When the majority of graduates, and half of all PhDs, are women, as cited here, what is expected of them?

They either use their degrees, or they do not, which in the latter case begs the question of why did they pursue formal and advanced degrees?

This is a two-edged sword, in that when women stay at home to raise their children they supposedly cause the GDP to drop; yet conversely when they work and they don't have children and the population drops to unacceptable the GDP drops.

Who caused this state of afrairs, and why?

What are the majority of educated people going to do, not use their educations? What are the over half of the PhDs going to do, not use their advanced post-graduate degrees?

Who is going to have the children that are needed to sustain the population of native Swedes in Sweden?

Whether the minister is a politician and her husband is a Professor teaching law is immaterial and irrelevant. She has to say something to fulfill her duties, whether real or contrived. She really doesn't matter.

What matters is the situation of Swedish women, and the future of Sweden.

Women who choose to stay at home and to have and raise children are admirable people. Women who choose to work and still have children and to raise them until the children are in school, are equally admirable.

Those who work and have children and ship them off to day cares have misplaced priorities. Children need their parents.

Children do not need the more and better that comes with money.

Materialism has no comparison to a happy home with happy children who are tended to by contented mothers.

Let the government take care of the GDP.
00:17 March 9, 2011 by bocale1
Why not reading the article before posting comments?

Nobody (and not Birgitta Ohlsson for sure) says that women need to be forced to work. The point is that many women stay at home not for their free choice, that I fully respect, but just because they have no other option given the lack of assistance for children and old people.

We should also remember that we are talking about Europe, not Sweden only. In many countries, the level of assistance given to family is much lower than in the Nordics.

@StockholmSam: and what are the real jobs? not politicians, not university lecturers... so what? just blue collars? or only workers in the private sectors? maybe just you? please explain because I do not see anything wrong in being a politician or a lecture as far as professions are done seriously and with commitment.
03:40 March 9, 2011 by krrodman
@Bocale1

I do not know if you are a husband, wife, mother or father. Let me ask you this question:

If you were a parent, who would you want to raise your children? An educated mother with a PhD, or an overwhelmed person in daycare taking care of 20(or is it 30?) children? I would prefer the mother with the PhD any, and every, day of the week.

I think the answer is obvious to everyone but the social planners. The great socialist experiment has its limitations and weaknesses. The concept that the State is the omnipresent, perfect parent is flawed. My bet is that women are choosing to stay at home, difficult as it may be for you to accept.
08:36 March 9, 2011 by samwise
Stay home moms are doing honorable work, Why does it contribute less to the society than taking some out of home "jobs"? The idea is so backwards, you have to check marxist books to find it. Let people make their own choice. People are people, they are not made to produce "nice" numbers for arrogant politicians.
00:55 March 10, 2011 by Jannik
I respect the mothers staying at home raising their own flesh and blood.

The socialist planners have a problem with women staying at home and rasing their kids. This means that their children are not eligible for state indoctrination in their early years of life.

What the social planners fail to realize, is that having children and taking time off to raise them, is a long term investment which usually pays of in the long run.

What the western countries need, is lots of healthy and well raised kids.

Not single women investing all their time and reproductive ability on the labor market. This will just spell disaster in the long run.
04:12 March 11, 2011 by Marc the Texan
Wow, this woman's economic ideas are straight out the central planning politburo manual of diminishing returns. Does she not understand the importance of the family to health of the nation's economy? She is making the assumption that childcare factories are more productive and turn out a more productive individual over their lifetime than a mother's care. That is the point she is trying to make, and she is trying to make it based on an absurd and unfounded idea that must have popped into her head. This woman is hair-brained. She has no understanding of what creates wealth in a nation. Does she think outsourcing childcare will increase the birthrate? Does she not understand that there is an oversupply of PhDs in the world? Why do you think so many PhDs have no employ? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that state subsidies of education have produced an oversupply of advanced degrees. The wealth of a nation is equal to the productivity of it's people. PhDs do not equal productivity. Allow Swedish families to make their own decisions about raising their kids and caring for their parents. Eliminate the bureaucrats who are turning the country into a sclerotic soviet people factory.
01:36 March 18, 2011 by Patriot1742
It is funny that this women says it will become a nation of old men - what about old women who usually outlive men - what is your problem with a woman wanting to give her child the best possible care - that which only a mother can give - you cannot pay someone to love your child.
09:41 March 20, 2011 by expatjourno
"This will make Europe a Jurassic Park filled with old men," she said. Typical Swedish male-bashing once again.

Here's a newsflash for Birgitta: Old women outnumber old men, so it would be a Jurassic Park filled mostly by old women.

You might wonder why she didn't say that.
10:04 March 20, 2011 by Streja
It's strange that so many men don't want to stay at home and take care of their children, feed them and have dinner on the table for their wives when they come home from work.

You old fashioned men, come back when you actually have a point and when your brains have been improved by education.
13:11 March 20, 2011 by truthworthy
Don't you think the Islamic system is more just for children's growth. If Europe wants to survive they should drop this materialistic approach to life and focus more on children and encourage women to stay home, because it is mothers that are best for the growth of children.
04:38 March 22, 2011 by JoeSwede
Hail to the housewife!!!!!!! She is a true saint.

Working parents should also be applauded.

Raising kids is great but not always easy. Child tax credit should be increased.
16:08 March 22, 2011 by soultraveler3
How does women staying home to raise their children hurt the economy? There might be a few more open spots at dagis but beyond that I don't really see that it would have that much of an impact.

Many people can't find jobs here anyways regardless of their education, so why shouldn't mom or dad stay home? If there's a budget and some common sense in place, I would think most couples would be able to afford to have a parent stay home here. You get a child allowance, you don't have to worry about health insurance and outside of major cities housing doesn't cost much in Sweden. As long as people didn't expect the newest and best of everything it shouldn't be much problem. Many stay at home moms / dads have little businesses on the side and often there's less stress at home. It's not all bad.

Just as a last point, I can't stand when so called women's groups give stay at home moms hell. Isn't the whole point of women's right is that a woman should be able to choose what she wants to do with her life without facing judgement?

As long as she (or he) makes the choice to stay home and take care of the children and household it should be okay and respected. It doesn't have to mean that they're sacrificing their career or doing less with their lives. Many careers offer flexible hours and part-time work and many women (and men) start working full-time or almost full-time again after their children enter school.
21:03 March 30, 2011 by Abbot
My wife has a Master's degree and a good career but when our daughter was born, she took two years off to raise her until it was time for her to go to kindergarten. Afterward, she resumed working. Everything worked out great for all involved. What's the problem?
17:36 April 1, 2011 by hlmencken56
What a bunch of poppycock. The social engineers are always looking for more control. Somehow it's better to drop of you kids or elderly parents to a bunch of strangers, than to have family take care of each other. Always remember, the government doesn't like strong families because strong families produce strong local communities, and that takes power away from centralized government. They want people dependent on government, that's power.
10:22 April 3, 2011 by Pongy
Only lazy people stay at home supported by the state. If you can't afford to have children, don't have them.
03:34 April 7, 2011 by MichiganLady
waffen--couldn't have said it better. got my advanced degrees--and if I'd had a child it wouldn't have been waster: there IS life after the children are grown.

What kind of freedom do women have, when society is just substituting one set of expectations for another? Let a woman stay home if she wants, work if she wants, and have the freedom to decide what's best for her child--and let the socio-economic chips fall where they may.
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