Unexpectedly Intriguing!
05 October 2005
2005 Female Economist of the Year Susanna Francke: Destined for a dead-end government job in Sweden?

Here's one for the "who'd-a-thunk?" files: Working women are substantially worse off in Sweden than in the United States!

That's the surprising result of research by London School of Economics sociologist Catherine Hakim, whose findings are presented in the 2004 book Key Issues in Women's Work (HT: Dissecting Leftism.)

The findings of Hakim's econometric study contradict much of the conventional wisdom regarding Sweden's perceived "family-friendly" social policies and their role in promoting the feminist goal of "gender equity." The UK-based Guardian's Joanna Moorhead reveals the contradiction in her interview with Hakim:

What we all expect - but what is never actually said - about Sweden and countries such as Norway and Denmark is that because they have such a forward-thinking attitude to the needs of working parents, women have a much better deal, are able to work more effectively and to progress better. Wrong, wrong and wrong again, says Hakim. "Swedish women don't have it made - they still end up paying a price in terms of their career or employment. What you find, if you look closely at the figures, is that there is a pay threshold in Nordic countries below which are 80% of all women, and above which are 80% of all men.

Hakim notes that this workplace segregation by sex goes all the way up the corporate ladder in Sweden, especially when compared to the U.S.:

"What is more, the glass ceiling problem is larger in family-friendly Sweden than it is in the hire-and-fire-at-will US, and it has also grown as family-friendly policies have expanded. In Sweden 1.5% of senior management are women, compared with 11% in the US."

Worse, Sweden's "family-friendly" social policies are so expensive that private companies can't afford them. As a result, Hakim notes another layer of segregation is imposed upon working Swedish women, one that limits where they may even find work:

75% of Swedish women are working in the public sector - traditionally the lower-paid, lower-qualified end of the employment market - while 75% of men are working in the racier, more demanding private sector. What has happened through the years of family-friendly policies, she says, is that private companies have reduced their number of female employees because they can't afford the cost of the generous maternity packages.

One wonders if those who continually advocate for policies like these that inevitably produce the very opposite of their intended effects have any real grounding at all. Then again, what are the odds that they actually care?

About the Picture

It's 2005 Female Economist of the Year Susanna Francke of the Stockholm School of Economics. (HT: Newmark's Door). Only time will tell if she's headed for a dead-end public-sector job in Sweden....

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