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23rd Feb 2020

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Denmark falls behind in gender-equality ranking

  • Four out of five Nordic countries have currently female prime ministers, from left Norway's Erna Solberg, Denmark's Mette Frederiksen and Iceland's Katrín Jakobsdóttir with German chancellor Angela Merkel. Sanna Marin recently became Finland's leader (Photo: Nordic Council of Ministers)

Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 published on Tuesday (17 December) by the World Economic Forum.

It is the 11th time in a row that Iceland tops the list, having closed almost 88 percent of its overall gender gap.

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But one Nordic country ranks much lower than the other Nordic countries that it normally is at par with. Denmark ranks only number as number 14 this year in the world, and has dropped one place compared to last year.

Denmark differs in particular on the number of female lawmakers, senior officials and managers, where it only ranks as number 101 in the world, according to the report.

"It is clearly not satisfactory that Denmark is so far behind the other Nordic countries. We are falling behind especially regarding women's financial participation. But it is also the case, when we look at women in leadership and women in politics, and it applies to equal pay and maternity leave," Danish minister for equal opportunities and for Nordic Cooperation, Mogens Jensen, told EUobserver.

He said a discussion had been launched with Simon Kollerup, minister of industry, business and financial affairs to find ways to strengthen efforts and to support companies that are working to promote women in leadership.

Denmark is falling behind on equal pay in comparison with other Nordic countries, with as many as 54 percent of Danish woman employed part-time only, compared to 33 percent of the Danish men.

In Norway 15 percent of women and 12 percent of men work part-time.

The Danish government has launched an investigation into the reasons for the differences in male and female salaries.

"It is crucial that we get more fathers to take more [paternity] leave. We know that there is a close relationship between women's career and salary development when the division of labor in the family is more equal between mother and father," the minister added.

Denmark falls behind countries like Nicaragua, Rwanda, Namibia and Costa Rica on gender equality, according to the ranking.

"It is a measuring of male and female position in society. If, for example, both sexes have low levels of education they still rank high in the index as equals," explains Drude Dahlerup, professor of political science at Stockholm University.

"But it may come as a surprise that Denmark is ranking low in comparison with the other Nordic countries," she said.

Already achieved?

"Denmark has not developed, but kept the same female representation in politics as 20 years ago," she said, adding that many Danes simply believe equality has been achieved and do not strive for improvement.

"The Danish law regarding equal representation in company boards is very weak and non-binding, whereas Norway has binding rules securing minimum 40 percent representation for both sexes. Denmark is also the only Nordic country without rules for paternity leave, but is now forced to introduce such amid an EU directive," she told EUobserver.

"In other Nordic countries equality is still an issue and people find there is still a lot to be done," she said.

The report analysed 153 countries worldwide in their progress toward gender parity, focusing on four main themes; economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

It concluded that global gender equality will take another 100 years to achieve at the current pace.

Western Europe was once again found to be the region where the gender gap is smallest (76.7 percent), placing it ahead of North America.

Five EU countries made it into the top-ten most gender-equal countries in the world: Finland (number 3), Sweden (4), Ireland (7), Spain (8) and Germany (10). The five lowest ranked EU countries were Czech Republic (number 78), Greece (84), Malta (90), Cyprus (91) and Hungary (105).

France was ranked number one in the world on female representation in boards of listed companies, with 43 percent female and 57 percent male participation.

The report highlighted that in countries such as Latvia and Spain the number of women in parliament has increased substantially.

But worldwide only 25 percent of members of parliaments are female and only 21 percent of the world's ministers are women.

In some countries women are not represented in parliament or government at all. And over half (85) of the 153 countries covered by report has not had a female head of state in the last 50 years.

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