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Does equality really make us happier?

Global observes might imagine that the Nordics are making continuous progress towards equality at the workplace. However, many experts argue that progress has flatlined.


Does equality lead to happiness?

Global observes might imagine that the Nordics are making continuous progress towards equality at the workplace. However, even though there are some indications that these political struggles have led to social improvements and greater gender-equal relations, the picture is complex.

The Nordic countries have become well known for successful attempts to create the possibilities for people to develop more gender-equal families and lives, through reforms such as a well-established preschool system and progressive welfare politics (Holter et al., 2009; Johansson and Klinth, 2008).

Even Europe's most egalitarian countries struggle to put women on an even footing at work. Why are women in the Nordics still lagging behind men in pay, management, and company ownership?

This article explores what gender equality means for the quality of life for both men and women and how the Nordics may not be as far ahead as the rest of the world may presume.

Gender equality and quality of life

Øystein Gullvåg Holter, professor at the Center for Interdisciplinary Gender Research at the University of Oslo, has collected data from a number of countries. He found that Europe and the US have provided a new database on gender equality statistics.

Differences in quality of life can be seen in various countries across Europe. For some countries, the biggest social problems are weak economies, unemployment and higher rates of corruption. These are factors can affect the quality of life.

Living in more equal countries reduces the chances of being subjected to violence or being depressed. In addition, the suicide rate is more balanced in equal countries than in less equal countries.

Gender equality in the family has also been strongly linked to:

  • Greater relationship satisfaction and well-being among both women and men (Holter, Svare, & Egeland, 2009).
  • Lower divorce rates and higher sexual satisfaction (Holter, 2014).
  • Fewer men being victims of violent deaths (the rate is lower in gender-egalitarian countries) (Holter, 2014).

According to Holter, men believe that gender equality is an independent variable that determines the quality of life, regardless of economic levels. "New research points to gender equality in itself and its own dimension," says Holter.

The pressure for men to deliver

Ole Nordfjell at Reform (Resource Center for Men) believes that some of the causes of depression and suicide rates are dependent on the country's level of acceptance for men combining job and family. "If you are a male business manager and you are the only source of income in the family and your work is going poorly, the whole family will feel a negative impact. The tendency for 'financiers to commit suicide' is not the same among finance women. It is oftentimes harder for men to lose face."

It is not only equality in the workplace that increases the quality of life. The more equal couples are in their relationships, the better quality of life they have. It is also possible that there is less of a likelihood of a breakup between couples who share the practical tasks equally.

The results indicate that living in a gender-equal region of the world increases the chances of men feeling happier and decreases the chances of being depressed, regardless of men's income or class (Holter, 2014).

Happy wife, happy life?

Women report that they are happier in their relationships and satisfaction increases with an even distribution of housework in the home.

Both women and men are less likely to develop depression, need to take medication, or need a psychologist in an equal relationships.

According to Psychology Today, women who expect equality and reject traditional gender roles won’t sacrifice their personal happiness to save their marriage out of respect for the institution. They are particularly vigilant of their relationship and will watch carefully how much their husbands contribute to home maintenance, how involved they are with their children, how committed they are to their marriage, and so on.

The statistics show a clear connection between equality and better cohabitation and quality of life. We are healthier, and happy when we share equally.

The kids are alright

The report Gender Equality and Quality of Life 2007, shows that gender equality also pays off for children. An equalized home reduces the father of violence against children by almost one-third, according to the report. This is supported by studies in other countries, including Poland, where Marta Warat and others in 2015 found the likelihood of violence was almost halved in more equal homes. This is compared between lack of equality and great violence against childern in Norway and Poland.

The association between gender equality and how happy children are, remains significant, despite wealth and income equality. Gender equality fosters social support among members of a society, which contributes to happier children. Promoting gender equality is likely to benefit all members of a society; not just by giving equal rights to women and girls, but also by fostering a supportive social climate for all.

This, in spite of culture, family tradition, and views on gender varies widely between countries. Holter believes such results reinforce the hypothesis of equality as an independent dimension.

Moving foward, faster

On a political level, all the Nordic governments are working to tackle the gender gap. Last year, Iceland became the first country in the world to require companies with 25 or more workers to demonstrate that they pay men and women equally for the same work, with daily fines for firms that fail to do so.

A key goal is simply to ensure that public discussions about gender equality continue, both in Nordic nations and on a global scale. Raising awareness of the ongoing challenges in the Nordics is essential, so that the region can pick up the pace of change and continue to inspire the world and lead to more satisfied men, women, couples and children globally.

How are you contributing to the change? Use your voice by leaving an honest, anonymous reivew of your workplace today.

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