Nordic Countries Prove to be Best Place for Women in Work

by Ray Clancy on April 30, 2015

If you are a working woman then you are likely to get a better deal in Scandinavian countries with Norway, Denmark and Sweden the top three in an annual Women in Work Index.

New Zealand is in fourth place, then Finland, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria making up the top 10 in the PwC index on labour market participation.

It also shows that the UK has made significant progress increasing female labour participation, rising to 14, up four places on last year and the research shows that the improvement in the UK’s performance was largely due to the strengthening economic recovery.

This improvement in the UK’s labour market performance has been markedly stronger than the OECD average, pushing the UK back up the PwC index rankings. Despite this increase, the UK still lags well behind some other countries in overall female economic empowerment.

As well as the UK, Hungary and the United States have made the biggest progress on the index since last year, moving up five and three positions respectively.

‘It is encouraging that the UK is making gradual headway and has returned to its position of 2000. The economic recovery has benefitted both men and women, but more so for women as indicated by the closing gap between UK male and female labour force participation and the employment rate,’ said Yong Jing Teow, economist at PwC.

‘However, the UK is yet to fully address the underlying factors in the labour market that influence gender pay gap and the proportion of women in full time employment. So there is still has a long way to go before we catch up with Nordic countries,’ he pointed out.

‘If we want to see a meaningful change to women’s economic empowerment in the UK, we need to make sure that the contribution of women in the workplace is fairly recognised and remunerated, and to support women in continuing their careers after having children,’ he added.

Meanwhile, other southern European countries such as Greece and Italy at the bottom of the index are still struggling to improve their performance since the fallout from the economic crisis.

The Index shows that the UK is in the top 10 performing OECD countries on female participation in the labour force and performs above average on female unemployment levels, but its performance is negatively impacted due to the low proportion of women in full-time employment. The UK ranks well below the OECD average on this measure and is in 25 place out of 27 countries.

The average gender wage gap across OECD countries has remained unchanged since 2012. Whilst the UK has achieved a small narrowing of the gap since last year, Ireland and Australia fared the worst, reversing the gains made since 2000.

‘Whilst it is positive that the UK is gaining ground, it is clear that the low number of females in full-time employment is preventing the UK from competing with the Nordic countries at the top of the index,’ said Gaenor Bagley, head of people and executive board member at PwC.

‘Despite the perception that flexible working helps women, our index and wider research suggests that it is still holding back women’s career progression. The reality for many flexible workers is that they have to work harder for promotion and don’t progress as quickly. The decision to go part time is often made for short term reasons, but unfortunately for women it often seems to have a wider, long-term negative impact,’ she added.

She pointed out that for the UK to make real progress there needs to be a cultural change. ‘We know women are confident and ambitious, they just need a workplace and society that support these aims. This often means getting the basics, such as how people are assessed and rewarded at work,’ she said.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: