Quick facts

Qualitative facts

1.  Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

2.  History of Women's suffrage

3.  Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making
   a.  Infrastructure responsible for EO
   b.  Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy
   c.  Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

Europäische Datenbank: Frauen in Führungspositionen

Report from Sweden by our transnational partner
Katharina Taschke

Quick facts
Women in Politics:
Women's suffrage active: Restricted local suffrage for women 1862,
1919 with restrictions - 1921 restrictions lifted.
Women's suffrage passive: 1919
1st Women in parliament: 1921: 5 women (1,3%)
1st Women in government: 1947-48 Karin Koch-Lindberg,
Minister without Portfolio for Economy
1st Ministry on women's issues:  
% women in national Parliament: 45,0% (2000)
% women in national Government: 57,9% (2000)
Electoral System:
Mixed: Diet: 349 members; 310 elected by party list vote (8% national, 12% local barrier) from 29 multi-member constituencies, 39 elected by party list vote from national constituency.
Quota:
Quota Law: No quota regulation legislation.
Party Quota: "Slipper-System": SDP 50%, Vp 50%, MpG 50%, FP 40%
for local, regional and national elections.
Education:
% women with secondary degree: not available
% women with degree in higher education: ca. 68% (1994/95)
% women in senior management: not available
Women's employment rates:
Full time: 55,3% (1998)
Part-time: 40,7% (1998)
Activity rate: 73,2% (1998)
Unemployment: 8,0% (1998)
*sources: Employment in Europe 1999 and Schlüsselzahlen zum Bildungswesen in der Europäischen Union, Amt für amtliche Veröffentlichungen der Europäischen Gemeinschaft 1997, Luxemburg; European Database - Women in Decision-Making and data by transnational experts.

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Qualitative facts

1. Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

In the early 1920s Sweden developed a modern political party system. Since this time the same 5 parties - Social Democrats, Left Party, Moderates, Liberals and Center - have dominated politics. In 1988 these parties were joined by the Green Party which in turn paved the way for 2 new parties, the "Christian Democrates" and for a short period the "New Democracy". Seven parties are currently in the Parliament. General elections for members of Parliament, the county council and the municipal councils are held on the same day, the 3rd Sunday of September every 4th year. The next election will be in 2002. Women have had the right to vote in all elections since 1921. The electoral turnout is high, around 90 per cent. Women and men are equally assiduous voters. Since 1994 there has been a substantial increase in the porportion of women in the Parliament. At present 43 per cent of the 349 members are women.

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2. History of Women's suffrage

The first private member's motion concerning equal political rights for men and women was submitted in 1884. This political issue was raised several times through the private member's motion, but without result. Universal suffrage for men in elections was introduced in 1909. Swedish women were not entitled to vote and were not eligible to join the Swedish Parliament before 1921. According to the Muncipal Laws of 1862, some women were given the right to vote for the local elections quite early. In practice only a few women could vote because they had to be of age, unmarried and have an income at a certain level or a certain amount of property. In 1918 universal and equal suffrage in local elections went into effect . The first Government bill on eligibility and suffrage for women was submitted in 1912 by the liberal government under Karl Staaff. On May 24th, 1919, also as a result of the revolutions at the end of World War I, the Parliament decided on equal suffrage and eligibility for women. After the election of 1921 the reform was confirmed as the amendments to the fundamental laws were adopted a second time. Now the Swedish Parliament has the highest number of female members in Parliament than any of the other parliaments in the world. This position was attained after the election in 1998, when 43 per cent of the representatives elected to the Parliament were women.

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3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making

There is a general political consensus on the principles of gender equality. These principles are also incorporated in the Swedish Constitution. A major source of legal protection against discrimination on the basis of gender is found in the Instrument of Government, which forms part of the Swedish Constitution. Important aims of Swedish family law are to put women and men on the equal footing in marriage and to protect the financially weaker party in the event of divorce or death. The legal entitlement to parental leave such as "Code of Parenthood", the "Parental Leave Act" and certain provisions of the "National Insurance Act" have combined with the existence of municipal child and elder care systems. This combination lays the conditions of shared responsibilities for the home and children equally on women and men. In recent years a consequent trend toward a better balance has been discernible. The number of women in the Parliament has almost tripled since 1971. Conditions in the municipal (41 per cent) and county councils (48 per cent) are similar to those prevailing in the Parliament. Among all political parties is a firm conviction about the need to increase the number of women candidates. In 1994 the Social Democratic Women initiated the idea of the so-called "sandwich nomination lists". This means that every second name on the party's nomination list must be a women's name. Since the general election in 1994, the largest political Party, the Social Democrats, and later on other political parties e.g. the Green Party and the Christian Democrats, systematically alternated between women and men in their lists of the constituency candidates for the elections and the EU-Parliament. The most important political work in Parliament is done by its standing committees. Altogether, more than 40 per cent of the seats of these committees are held by women. Women are most represented on committees dealing with foreign affairs, justice, law and social insurance. The speaker of Parliament is also a woman.

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a. Infrastructure responsible for EO

Swedish women are far better represented in politics than most countries outside the Nordic Area. The reasons are seen in the high educational level. (The "Education Act "and "Higher Education Act" contain provisions on equality). Progress towards equality was made possible by substantial demand for labour in the 1960s and 70s. It was mainly due to the expansion of the public sector, and by consistent reforms in economic, social and family policy. An obstacle to women`s participation in working life often is the taxation and social insurance system. In Sweden, the introduction of separate taxation for married people, and amendments to matrimonial legislation that uphold the economical independence of all adults, did much to transform attitudes concerning the traditional roles of women and men. The overall responsibility for equality between women and men rests with the Minister for Equality Affairs, at present in the Ministry of Agriculture (before Ministry of Labour). Equality affairs, however, cannot be developed in isolation from other areas of policy and society. All ministers are therefore required to promote and assess equality-related issues within their fields of resonsibility. The "Equality Affairs Division" supports and initiates efforts to promote equality at the national and regional levels, and to develop methods for integration and implementation of a gender perspective (mainstreaming) in all policy areas. Its aims are to ensure inclusion of a gender perspective and to achieve equal representation of women and men in various bodies in the State sector. Another task is to initiate gender equality training for the Cabinet Office and other government authorities. Its tasks also include administering budget and appropriations issues concerning the "EO Ombudsman", the "EO Commission" as well as matters concerning the "EO Act", which came into force in 1980 . It also cooperates with the EU, the Nordic Countries and international organizations regarding gender equality issues. Th Office of the EO Ombudsman is an independent government authority under the Ministry of Agriculture. It was also set up in 1980s. The "Council on Equality Issues" is an advisory body to the Minister for Equality Affairs, who chairs it. The members represent political and private interests including women's organizations, political parties, and employer and employee organizations. They exchange information and discuss equality issues. Since 1995, there has been a regional expert on equality issues in each of the 21 counties. Their main task is to promote mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all policy fields and support efforts in their regions to achieve equality of the sexes.

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b. Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy

Not until the 1960s did Swedes begin to address the issue of the disadvantaged position of women in political life. Now the Government consists of an equal number of women and men - 10 women, 10 men. This balance was deliberately chosen by the Swedish Prime Minister in 1994. Since then the Government has been committed to make gender equality a guiding principle of its policy, nationally as well as at the European Union level. A separate Equality Affairs Division was established at the central governmental level in the early 1980s and was part of the Ministry of Labour until 1998. It is currently located at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries, and is led by Margareta Winberg. The efforts at gender equality have produced results, although it has not been achieved in all respects. The opportunities for women and men still differ regarding income and influence. A gender equality perpective has to permeate all aspects of government policy in all sectors of the society. This requires more knowledge, education and still a higher level of awareness. It is mainly an opinion forming process. Female enterprise and less gender divided labour are the goals. Legislation to counteract wage discrimination on the grounds of gender will be investigated.

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c. Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

The good record in the share of women in political decision-making has not been reached overnight and without women fighting for it. It is a result of long-term development, pressure from strong women's organizations and networks and a strategic work within the main parties and the Government. The Act on Equality Between Men and Women at Work, generally known as th Equal Opportunities Act, entered into force in 1980. The Act was replaced by a new and stronger EO Act in 1992. The main purpose of the Act is to promote equal rights for women and men with respect to employment, working conditions and opportunities for personal development at work It also proposed an action programme to counteract violence against women. The ban on gender discrimination applies to recruitment, terms and termination of employment, and direction of work and transfers. The ban includes both direct and indirect discrimination. It does not apply, however, if the employer can show that the decision was not found on the persons gender, but was part of a conscious effort to promote equality at work (positive action). Further measures were proposed in a third bill on equality policy entited "Shared Power - Shared Responsibility", adopted by Parliament in 1994. Among other things, it tightened the EO Act and introduced rules stating that one month of parental benefits should be available only for the fathers. In 1996, the Government presented a written communication to Parliament on the developments in equality policy and ways to integrate a gender perspective into all policy areas. In spring 2000, the Government will present a bill to the Swedish Parliament proposing new changes in the Swedish EO Act. The changes include improving and tightening up present legislation regarding unjustified wage differences between the sexes. There is still a need for efficient salary analysis and work assessment to eliminate unjustified wage differences between women and men. Another step in gender equality work must be to focus on and change the role of men. The role of women has changed quite considerably in a short time, while the role of men is changing very slowly. This imbalance leads to conflicts which manifest themselves in different ways, e.g. violence against women and that women seek divorce more often than men. The final target has not been reached as well - an equal representation of women and men in political decision-making at all levels.

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