Do Women in Nordic Countries Have it Best?


Short answer: Quite possibly.

Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden all regularly rank in the top ten countries worldwide in terms of gender equality in the health, education, political and economic sectors. Perhaps this isn’t surprising – after all, these countries have all been pioneers for women’s rights for the last 100 years, being among the first to grant women the vote in the early 20th Century.

So, if you’re considering a Europe move, possess two X chromosomes, and value gender equality, you may want to consider the Nordic nations. Read on to discover what each country has to offer the women who live there:


Iceland has the smallest gender gap in the world. Women outnumber men in post-secondary education, and make up almost half of parliament. Iceland’s also been the first country to outlaw strip clubs not for religious reasons, but because of the associated dangers of objectifying women and treating them as commodities. In the same vein, the nation is exploring the possibility of imposing harsher restrictions on pornography. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s certainly progressive.


Home to the second narrowest gender gap, Finland comes out tops in terms of gender equality in health. Finland was the first nation in the world to grant women the unrestricted right to vote and run for parliament back in 1906, and to this day equality has been a serious business – it’s not only enshrined in the country’s constitution, but it has an impressive four government bodies working to uphold gender equality across all sectors of public life. Furthermore, couples can share up to 263 of paid parental leave between them annually, and public childcare and state-funded school meals ease the burden for mothers still further.


Already been won over by Iceland or Finland? Well, perhaps Sweden can tempt you. Last year, women made up 44.7% of the Swedish parliament, meaning that women have substantial power and influence here. Perhaps this is why the regulations are so female friendly in Sweden – abortions are available without restriction (or the need for a doctors sign-off) up to 19 weeks; parents get 62 weeks of parental leave that can be divided between them; part-time workers enjoy special legal protection; and children can enjoy state-subsidized pre-schools. The Swedish art scene is also all about the equality – the Swedish Arts Council have launched initiatives to create greater gender balance in the arts, and some movie theatres are even beginning to rate movies according to whether or not they’ve passed the feminist Bechdel Test. Sign me up now!


Norwegian women has the honour of performing less unpaid work (such as cooking, cleaning and care) than women anywhere else, clocking in just over 200 minutes per day. Not only this, but Norway is the safest country to give birth in globally – a woman’s chance of dying as a result of childbirth is just one in 7,600. Norway was the first country to pass a law on gender equality back in the 1970s, and in 2008 the Nordic nation introduced quotas to ensure women made at least 40% of board seats and government positions.

It is here that the gender pay gap is also at its tiniest, at a still-some-way-to-go 77%. The childcare policies are world-leading, with 12 weeks of flexible paternity leave and state-funded nurseries available to parents. And oh yeah, women in Norway earn more on average than anywhere else in the world (apart from Luxemburg, who they draw with).


Last but by no means least, Denmark also has a lot to offer women, such as 52 weeks of parental leave, with 19 weeks for mothers, two weeks at full pay for fathers, and the rest to split between them as they see fit. Combine this with free and low-cost childcare, and it’s easy to see why almost 80% of mothers return to work at their previous level of employment after having a child – a far higher rate than in the majority of other countries. And don’t forget, Denmark introduced voluntary gender quotas for government positions way back in the 1970s, which worked so well they never had to legislate since. This is country where woman have significant economic and political clout.


I don’t know which to choose, but I know the Nordic nations are sounding pretty sweet right now!

Please share your experiences as a woman in these countries – or anywhere – below.


About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.

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  1. Pingback: Where to Look for Love in Europe

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