Bryan Caplan  

Gender and Labor Regulation in Sweden

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John Ray has an interesting post on the effect of labor market regulations on Swedish women. The most striking finding he reports is that 75% of women in Sweden work in the public sector, compared to 25% of men:

Swedish women in the workplace who become pregnant must under Swedish law be given all sorts of benefits that few private businesses can afford -- so 75% of Swedish women work for the government. Nobody else wants them.

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Matt McIntosh writes:

Wow, people actually respond to incentives! Who knew?

Mikael writes:

Sure, there's something to this. But, again and again we must be careful with this type of data for comparative reasons. Typical jobs that tend to attract females to a larger extent (teachers, jobs in the healthcare sector and care of elderly etcetera) are more or less to 100% public sector jobs in Sweden. I think the female representation is high in these jobs even in countries where it is not only the public sector that hires within these sectors.

Further, it is definitely interesting that the "glass ceiling" for women in some sense tends to be lower in a more economically liberal (with the classical definition) country such as the US compared to a more regulated country such as Sweden. While research (by for example Susan Myerson-Milgrom) shows that for the "same job" there is more or less no wage discrimination in Sweden, very few women get to the top of the top (CEO and similar).

My hint: It is for example extremely expensive (due to general taxes) to employ cleaners and so on for your own home. Given that (still among the older generations) women take the larger part in typical domestic duties, very few women in the older generations can work until the late evening and still have a tidy home. That ought to be much easier in countries with lower taxes.

T.R. Elliott writes:

Yippee. More data mining to "prove" ideologies.

dearieme writes:

Doesn't everyone know that Mrs Ericson works for the State, looking after Mrs Jacobson's elderly Mum, because Mrs Jacobson is so busy working for the State looking after Mrs Ericson's children, because....

rafinlay writes:

"Yippee. More data mining to "prove" ideologies."

As opposed to, I suppose, "proving" ideologies without data, or data mining without a result....

Paul N writes:

I doubt this is the whole story. First of all, what percentage of Swedish women even become pregnant in their lifetimes - 50% max?

Barkley Rosser writes:

Well, I just checked a google search, and out of 49 European "countries" listed, only 12 had higher birth rates than Sweden. In fact birth rates in the Nordic countries are generally higher than in the rest of Europe. Having solid child care support and less traditional views of womens' roles makes it easier to work and have kids, and those countries are doing so.

BTW, although many are under the delusion that the Nordic countries are "highly regulated," this is basically incorrect. The rivals to being "most competitive country" with the US, besides Hong Kong and Singapore, are generally Nordic countries, with Finland being number one on some recent lists, and Sweden way the heck up there. They have relatively few regs on new businesses and so forth. Their big negative, of course, is their high taxes, which many people are not as upset about as some ideologues in the US are.

BTW, the Nordic countries all come out ahead of the US on international happiness measures (Denmark is number one, just behind Sweden in its high taxes), and they almost all come out ahead of the US in "quality of life measures," that account for life expectancy and educational levels as well as real per capita income. Be careful whom you knock.

Tino writes:

"BTW, although many are under the delusion that the Nordic countries are "highly regulated," this is basically incorrect. The rivals to being "most competitive country" with the US, besides Hong Kong and Singapore, are generally Nordic countries, with Finland being number one on some recent lists, and Sweden way the heck up there. They have relatively few regs on new businesses and so forth."

I am sorry but you are wrong. These rankings are simply junk. Random variables with no predictive power, arbitrarily chosen and weighted. If a ranking shows Sweden is the second most competitive economy and we have the 21nd lowest GDP growth rate between 1990-2002 I will choice reality before the ranking. Sweden grow with 2% 1990-2004, the US 3,2%.

To give you a simple example the Swedish government has forced private firms to take more women into the boardrooms. Here you cannot sell aspirin in the grocery store, it is a movement monopoly. So is selling alcohol. Gambling is largely a government monolply (exceptions exists, such as the Social Democratic party that has their own gambling firm). It is illegal for internet firm to advertise how much they give back on every kronor bet! It is also illegal (and harshly enforced) to workers for incompetence. If you fire workers for lack of demand (this is legal), you have to follow the order you hired them in. By law tge union can force a firm to enter a collective bargenning agreement, even if the firm hase no union members. The list goes on.

In Sweden the taxes on entrepreneurs capital income is 68% above what the government decides is the “correct” rate of return (about 7-8% currently I think). Even a small firm is forced to pay large portions of sick leave of employees, and has to deal with thousands of pages of regulations. Sweden also has the lowest share of entrepreneurs/capita in the western world.

It never ceases to surprise me what a rosy picture American economist have of our system.

Barkley Rosser writes:

The US has many petty regulations on businesses as well, this varying among the states, with some of the ones you list being here also, such as some states only allowing liquor to be sold by in state stores (e.g. Virginia).

Regarding Sweden, the latest numbers suggest that it is number one in the probability that a male born today will live to be at least 65 years old. That is while spending far less on health care than do people in the US, which is far down the lists on life expectancy and infant mortality.

Things are not perfect anywhere, including Sweden, but things are not nearly as bad as many people think, especially in the US. There are many people in the US who have been predicting the imminente demise of the Swedish economy and society for the last several decades. Sweden has fallen down the lists on official per capita real income, but it continues to have one of the two or three lowest poverty rates in the world and a higher level of overall measured happiness than one finds in the US, where that measure has been steadily declining since around 1956.

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