Cat Fight

19 May

flying-cat-fight-1.jpg Now, Norway gets to criticize South Korea – on women (via The Grand Narrative).

Meanwhile, amid the hoopla of the Yeosu Expo and other events this week, officials from Norway held a seminar with womens’ groups and government officials to discuss how it achieved that rarest of feats among industrialized countries – a high participation rate of women in the workplace and a high birth rate.

About 80% of Norway’s working-age women are on the job and the country’s birth rate of 2.0 is just above the level need to replace the population. South Korea, meanwhile, has a birth rate of about 1.1, well below the level needed to sustain the population. Schools already have far fewer students than they were built for and, starting around 2017, the number of working-age people will begin to decline.

For Norway, the answer was the development of generous leave programs for both moms and dads after a child is born, subsidized day care and kindergarten and a big change in attitude from the 1970s when, like South Korea, Norwegians believed that mainly men should work.

“To succeed with more equal participation of women in the workplace, and especially in leadership positions, you have to transfer that equality to the home,” Trond Giske, Norway’s minister of trade and industry, said in an interview. “You cannot expect women to be participating as much in the workforce and at the same time take care of all domestic work, including raising children. You will have to have men participate more in domestic work.”

Today, 90% of Norwegian fathers take three months off work to care for a new baby. “Modern men don’t want to miss out on their child’s upbringing,” Mr. Giske said. “It’s a gift in life to have a child and we want to be part of it. And it’s good for the economy.”

He estimates that Norway’s economy would be 5% to 10% smaller now if Norwegian women were participating in the economy at the level they did in the 1970s.

Mr. Giske said South Korea will have to find its own path to reach gender equality. This week’s seminar, he said, was designed simply to show what’s possible.

“Countries that aren’t using the whole potential of their population in the future will fall behind,” he said. “The global competition, the demand for hardworking and talented people, will be so high that if any country thinks they can afford to have their population participate at a far lower rate than the rest, they will lose out.”

Two men enter, who leaves?

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