MC Annabel Crabb urged the Ambassador of Norway Unni Kløvstad not to “rub our noses in it” when introducing her to stage to explain how Norway’s achieved remarkable progress on women’s workforce participation in recent years.
But based on the collective sigh of the room at the Women World Changes event in Sydney this morning, plenty of us couldn’t believe the cost of full-time childcare is capped at $425 a month in Norway.
Yes, $425 a month. In some parts of Sydney, parents are spending almost half of that in just one day.
As Crabb said, “That’s about what many people in the room spend on parking meters outside of childcare centres.”
Norway spends around 0.5% of its GDP on childcare, where all children are given a right to childcare from the age of one and providers are required to ensure availability.
Kløvstad added that scheduling meetings outside of school hours is considered socially unacceptable in Norway, while research has found that fathers continue to play an equal or near-equal role in raising children when they take their full parental leave entitlements. And in Norway, around 70% of fathers take up their full paid parental leave rights.
Naturally a conversation on women’s workforce participation in Norway would quickly turn to quotas. Since 2008, it’s been compulsory for the country’s major listed organisations to have boards that are at least 40% female.
Kløvstad said the law was proposed because voluntary measures had been unable to produce substantial change, with women holding just 7% of such roles in 2003. “It was hoped and expected that these changes would lead to a spill-over effect into other parts of the private sector,” she said. “The quotas forced companies and organisations to make that extra effort to find those qualified women, to look beyond their usual recruitment pools.”
When the quotas were legislated, companies could choose to either enlarge their boards of substitute sitting men with women. Most boards chose to do the latter, with women appointed in similar ways to how men have been appointed for decades – through existing networks.
Meanwhile, most parties in Norway also have a 40% female quota, and around 40% of the country’s elected officials are women. Nine of Norway’s 19 ministers are also female.
So ready to pack your bags for Norway?