Swedish equality policies “do not go far enough”

The Swedish government's equality policies have failed and more investment needs to be focused on reducing the economic gap between men and women. That's the conclusion of an independent inquiry which presented its report on Monday.

While there has been an increase in equality over the last few years, the key failing, according to Gertrud Åström, the author of the report, is the absence of a clear goal.

“What is it that we mean with equality policies and why whould we have them? We want goals which are both visionary and which allow pragmatism,” she wrote.

Åström’s suggestion is that “women and men should have the same power to influence society and their own lives”. Part of that requires that the difference between average incomes for men and for women, which is more or less the same as it was in 1980, needs to be removed.

One idea is a more detailed inquiry into the matter, “not to research how gender-based salary differences are – we know that already. But to take forward a strategy for how the salary difference between men and women should be eliminated”.

To start with, the report recommends a 50% tax rebate on income between 100,000 kronor and 200,000 kronor per year for single parents. That would result in an overall rebate of some 60,000 kronor per year.

Helén Lundqvist, one of the report’s contributors, said that single parents, and especially single mothers, have been left behind in the welfare stakes since the 90s.

“What we know is that single mothers, to a greater extent than others, have income from work, even if they are over-represented in the benefits statistics,” she said.

This move would contribute to equality, she told Swedish Radio, by increasing women’s economic independence.

But it’s not just efforts towards economic equality that need to be improved, said the report. Just as important is that women and men should have “the same opportunity for physical integrity”.

In other words, violence against women has to stop. Gertrud Åström recommended a zero-tolerance approach towards physical abuse of women by men.

This will require work on two levels, she said: dealing with the structural issues as well as those individual factors which contribute to violence in the home.

One of the most far-reaching proposals is a new government agency to oversee issues of equality and to come up with new ideas to accelerate equality in society.

“There’s no point setting targets if you don’t follow them up,” said Åström.

“The lack of follow-up could be an explanation for many saying that nothing has happened with equality.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, SR