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Gender equality in Norway

Equality between men and women is a matter of great importance both for Norway and the European Union.

The Norwegian gender value was founded in the late 1880s as a result of the women’s fight to obtain universal suffrage. They succeeded in 1913, 15 years after the establishment of universal suffrage for men. Since then, the promotion of gender equality has mainly centred around women’s participation in working life, and more recently around men’s participation in family life.

Maternity Leave
The improvement of the reconciliation between work and family life has been an important element in the work related to gender equality. The first worker protection act was set up as early as in 1936, giving women a legal right to a 12 week maternity leave: 6 week before and 6 after giving birth. In addition the women obtained the right to return to their former job.

In the Working Environment Act of 1977 women obtained the right to an 18-month paid maternity leave. From 1987 to 1993 a systematic development took place, ending up with a 42 week paid leave in 1993. The maternity leave may last for one year, the payment then constituting 80 per cent of a year salary. In 1993, a quota for fathers was established, giving the fathers rights to a 4-week leave. If they chose not do take advantage of this right, the leave lapses. Today, more than 80 per cent of the Norwegian fathers make use of this right. An ongoing political debate is discussing whether the male quota should be extended.

Both parents do also possess the right to stay at home to take care of sick children 12 days a year. The children do have to be less than 12 years old.

Child Care Facilities
In 2003 44 per cent of children between one and two years old were covered
by care facilities. The number of those aged three to five was 85 per cent.
Providing all children with an option of care facilities is a stated goal from the Norwegian government. If parents chose not to place their child/ren in care facilities, they are in title of an economic compensation consisting of a fixed amount per month per child with less than three years old.

Female employment rate and wage gap
In Norway, the employment rate for women has reached 68,4 per cent (16-74
years old), one of the highest worldwide. Though 40 per cent are working part-time, the number of full-time employees is increasing, especially among young and highly educated women. The Government has, in their proposal for a new Working Environment Act, suggested to legalise the right to extend the
working-time when available capacity within the enterprise.

One of the major challenges lay in narrowing the pay gap between women and men. The female wage level constitutes in average 84 per cent of the male one. There are variances between different sectors and businesses. The pay gap is minor in the public services and greatest in the bank and finans sectors. According to the Norwegian Gender Status Act, both the government and the social partners have a responsibility to follow up the pay gap challenge.

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