The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Is gender equality legislation counter-productive?

Posted by rantingkraut on November 21, 2008

In Sweden, three-quarters of working men are employed in the private sector, and two-thirds of working women are employed in public services. This industrial segregation of men and women results in massive occupational segregation, and a pay gap no lower than elsewhere in Europe – contrary to Swedish claims. A study by the International Labour Office shows that the Nordic countries have the highest degree of sex segregation in occupations among all OECD countries. The United States has the lowest level within the OECD group, and China has the lowest level in the world. Women are far more likely to reach top management in the US than in Sweden: the glass ceiling is thicker in Sweden, and seems to be a direct consequence of family-friendly policies


The labour market rewards competitive values and achievement more often than the caring and sharing values that dominate private life. I predict that men will continue to dominate in the workforce and public life while women will continue to dominate in family life, even in the absence of sex discrimination, because there are some residual differences in tastes, values and lifestyle choices … that have a cumulative impact.

Social policy should be gender neutral so that men and women can choose the type of work they concentrate on. Equal opportunities policies have been successful, stimulating massive changes over the past 30 years and transforming women’s lives. Women now have real choices between a focus on family work and/or paid employment. In comparison, it is men who now have more circumscribed choices, with work-centred lives still the norm for men. Perhaps equality legislation should address this imbalance instead of a continued focus on women.

Catherine Hakim “Is gender equality legislation becoming counter-productive?” public policy research September/November 2008, pp. 133-136

One Response to “Is gender equality legislation counter-productive?”

  1. UK Voter said

    I have recently written a post coming at it from a slightly different perspective, in that I was asking whether having a Minister for Women was counterproductive ir even a little patronising.

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