Swedes hold strongest views on gender equality in EU: study

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedes hold strongest views on gender equality in EU: study
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Swedes hold the strongest views on gender equality of any EU country, according to a survey published this month.


The Special Eurobarometer on Gender Equality looked at people's perceptions and beliefs regarding gender equality across the European Union, in order to explore opinions of equality at home, in the workplace, and in leadership positions.

READ ALSO: Is Sweden really the best place in the world for women?

Though the majority of all respondents said that gender equality was important for a fair democracy, respondents were divided as to the state of gender equality, and in their opinion on different issues relating to equality.

Here are some of the key findings, showing how Sweden measured up.

It's OK for men to cry

Almost everyone in Sweden agreed with the statement 'It's acceptable for men to cry'. The proportion of 99 percent was the highest among the countries surveyed, just ahead of Finland and the Netherlands where the proportion was 98 percent.

Meanwhile, in five countries surveyed (Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Lithuania), at least one in four people said it was not acceptable for men to cry.

Sweden also stood out as the only country where the majority of respondents did not believe that women are more likely than men to make decisions based on their emotions. Still, a relatively high proportion (47 percent) said that this was the case, though at the other end of the scale, 83 percent of respondents in Hungary agreed, while the figure was 83 percent in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Latvia.

Gender roles

Across the EU, there was huge diversity in opinion on the respective roles of men and women within a family.

Photo: Pontus Lundahl / SCANPIX/TT

Just 11 percent of Swedes said that a woman’s most important role was to take care of her home and family, while Denmark (14 percent) and the Netherlands (15 percent) had the next lowest scores. Bulgarians were the most likely to say that this was the most important role for a woman, with 81 percent holding this view, followed by Poland and the Czech Republic, where the figure was 77 percent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, a similarly low proportion of Swedes (ten percent) said that a man’s most important role was to make money. Again, the views of respondents in Denmark and the Netherlands were most closely aligned with Swedes’, while Bulgaria was the country where the most respondents (again, 81 percent) agreed with the statement.

It’s important to promote gender equality

Across the EU, the majority of respondents said that promoting gender equality was important to ensure a fair, democratic society, but Sweden led the table, this time joint with Portugal at 98 percent, and followed by Cyprus at 97 percent. The lowest figures were reported in Estonia (80 percent), Slovakia (81 percent), and Romania (83 percent).

Swedes also saw an economic advantage to feminism, with 94 percent of respondents saying that promoting gender equality was important for companies and the national economy. This figure was highest in Malta at 95 percent, while 94 percent of respondents also agreed in Cypus and Ireland. Again, Estonians were the least likely to agree, with just 69 percent holding this view, while the proportion was also lower in Latvia, Denmark and the Czech Republic, at 75 percent.

The biggest variation was in opinion as to whether promoting gender equality was important for respondents personally. In Sweden, 95 percent of respondents shared this belief, a figure which was only higher in Cyprus, at 96 percent, but was far lower in Estonia (54 percent), Latvia (61 percent) and Slovakia (65 percent).

Domestic duties

In every country, at least six out of ten people surveyed said they approved of men taking on an equal share of household chores. Malta and Denmark were the most in favour of men pulling their weight at home, where 95 percent said they approved, followed by Sweden at 94 percent. At the other end of the scale, the proportion was 64 percent in Lithuania.

Photo: Christine Olsson / TT

Sweden is known for its generous parental leave policies which encourage men to take an equal share of the time off, and 96 percent of Swedes said they approved of men taking paternity leave. That compared to just 56 percent in Hungary and 58 percent in the Czech Republic, where one in four respondents said they disapproved of men taking time off to care for children.

The role of men in feminism

Sweden was the country where respondents were second most likely to approve of men identifying themselves as feminists. The proportion of Swedes who held this belief was 62 percent, a figure which was only higher in Malta (71 percent). At the other end of the scale, just 11 percent of people in Latvia, 13 percent in the Czech Republic, and 14 percent in Slovakia, agreed.

The barometer also asked respondents to rate their level of agreement on a five-point scale, where a score of 5 indicated high agreement. Respondents in Sweden had the highest average score, indicating that they had the strongest level of agreement that men should promote gender equality.

Women in leadership

Only eight percent of people in Sweden said men were more ambitious than women, the lowest score of any country. Meanwhile, in seven countries, this was the majority belief.

And in five countries, the majority of respondents said that women were less interested than men in positions of political responsibility, while in Sweden -- which is home to the world’s first self-described feminist government -- and the UK, just 22 percent said this. However, the proportion was even lower in Spain and France, at 21 and 20 percent respectively.

READ ALSO: 1,300 women in Swedish politics allege harassment in the 'corridors of power'

The Swedish government. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman / SvD / TT

Only three percent of Swedes said that women do not have the correct qualities and skills to fill positions of responsibility in politics, the lowest proportion recorded. In Romania and Hungary the proportion was highest, at 41 percent, followed by Italy at 37 percent.

Perceived pay gap

Sweden was the country where the highest proportion of respondents (94 percent) believed women were paid less than men per hour of work, while at the other end of the scale, only 31 percent of Romanians, 34 percent of Bulgarians, and 39 percent of Maltese held this view.

The majority of all respondents across the EU said it was unacceptable for women to receive less money than men for the same job, a proportion which was highest in the Netherlands (97 percent), Luxembourg, France and Sweden (all 96%), and lowest in Romania (72 percent).

There was no clear relationship between the pay gap as perceived by respondents and the actual situation in their country; in fact, Sweden has a similar pay gap to Romania despite the contrasting views of respondents.

READ ALSO: Study predicts Swedish women poised to close gender pay gap first


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