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September, 2017

Parental leave – a key Nordic export

The fact that we’re talking about parental leave at the UN high-level week is a good measure of international demand for true Nordic stories.

Dagfinn Høybråten til UNGA72 i New York
Photographer
Anna Rosenberg

Right now, leaders from around the world are gathered at the UN headquarters for the opening debate of the General Assembly.

The debate addresses the main issues that the world faces now and in the future, and it is as part of this debate that the Nordic Council of Ministers is hosting a high-level panel on gender equality in the labour market together with UN Women titled “Parental leave – a key to prosperity and other true stories”.

Although the title may not give the impression of big politics, the subject matter is, without doubt, incredibly important. Two years ago, world leaders set ambitious targets for sustainable development – UN Agenda 2030 – with a view to eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, and halting climate change.

The five Nordic countries are determined to play a proactive role in achieving the goals of Agenda 2030, and we know from experience that gender equality is crucial for building sustainable and prosperous societies.

Policies which promote equal opportunities for women and men in the labour market are essential.  Good and inexpensive child care for all, free education, and parental leave for both mothers and fathers have been the key to the successful development of the Nordic countries.

Two Nordic foreign ministers, the head of UN Women – the UN entity for gender equality – the head of the global trade union ITUC, and representatives from Nordic businesses will offer examples of what parental leave can mean for companies, employees, and society at large.

The panel debate will therefore discuss parental leave as one of several building blocks of a social structure in which women and men participate in the labour market on equal terms.

Nordic foreign ministers and businesses can explain at first hand that these investments have been vital for growth and prosperity in the Nordic Region.

Policies which promote equal opportunities for women and men in the labour market are essential.  Good and inexpensive child care for all, free education, and parental leave for both mothers and fathers have been the key to the successful development of the Nordic countries.

Music giant Spotify is a global role model when it comes to offering six months’ paid parental leave to its employees, mothers and fathers, regardless of the continent where they work.

Isa Notermans, Spotify’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, will participate in the panel to explain how her company’s parental leave policy is being copied by other companies, how it is inspiring politicians around the world, and how it has become an export product itself.

Other tech giants such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Netflix now also offer paid parental leave to their employees. 

The fact that we’re talking about parental leave at the UN high-level week is a good measure of international demand for true Nordic stories.

We’ve been aware of this demand for a while now. Recently the five Nordic prime ministers launched the Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges initiative. The initiative should be seen as both an invitation and a challenge to the world – an offer of the best-proven solutions and experience for the building of sustainable societies.

Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges brings together Nordic experiences of the green transition, of sustainable food and welfare solutions, and of the creation of a gender-equal labour market.

When employers encourage expectant mothers and fathers to take it easy and enjoy time with their new baby before returning to work, it means that parents are not forced to make the impossible choice between having a career or starting a family. At the same time, the pool of talent which companies can recruit from doubles, benefiting profitability. Not only is this an unusually happy story, it’s also a true story.  

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Dagfinn Høybråten