Gender Equality is Smart Economics

Gender equality is vital to economic growth and prosperity; sustainable development cannot be achieved if half of the population is excluded. Sweden is consistently ranked as one of the most gender-equal countries in the world.
In Sweden, the state and municipalities provide affordable childcare, elderly care, and generous and gender-neutral parental leave. This enables both parents to combine work and family life. It also supports gender equality and business productivity.
Man reading book with childMan reading book with child
Photo: Madelene Eng/Folio/
  • In 1971, Sweden abolished the system of joint taxation of spouses, increasing the incentive for women to work as their income was no longer considered part of their husband’s.
  • In 1974, Sweden became the first country in the world to replace gender-specific maternity leave with parental leave.
  • In 1980, gender discrimination in the workplace became illegal.
  • In 1995, Sweden introduced the first pappamånad—“daddy month”—with 30 days of leave reserved for the father on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. This year, parents were also given the right to decrease their working hours (and pay) by up to 25% until their child turned eight years old without risk of losing their jobs.
  • In 2014, the Swedish government became the first in the world to declare itself feminist and adopt a feminist foreign policy, placing gender equality at the center of both its domestic and international work. In 2019, the Swedish government also adopted a feminist trade policy to ensure that trade benefits women and men equally.
Childcare: All families are guaranteed access to affordable and high-quality public childcare. Fees are proportional to the parents’ income with a cap of 175 USD per month.

Parental leave: Women and men are entitled to a total of 480 days of paid parental leave per child, to be shared between the parents. Three months are reserved for each parent on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. In addition, the father or other parent is entitled to ten days of paid leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child.

​​​​​​​IKEA and Spotify are examples of successful Swedish companies in the United States that offer their employees parental leave benefits, not least because it is good for business.

Sweden has come far, but challenges remain. Women still earn less than men and remain underrepresented in top management roles in the private sector.