Gender Equality in Finland

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Flag of Finland
Population (in Mil.) 5.41
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 256.71
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.96
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.090909091
Fertility Rate 1.73
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.8
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 91.6
Women in Parliament (in %) 42.5
Human Development Index 21/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 21/186
Gender Equity Index 2/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 3/128
Global Gender Gap Index 2/68
More information on variables


Finland is a pioneer in gender equality, and is the first country in the world to give women both the right to vote and stand for election (1906). Strong female political participation, reflected in the election of a female president in 2000 and again in 2006, is higher than EU and OECD averages, and has helped earn Finland top rankings in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report; Finland was third in 2010 after Iceland and Norway. Legislation tackling discrimination against women in employment have not managed to reduce the significant pay gaps caused by the strong segregation of the labour market.

Social Institutions

The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) measures gender-based discrimination in social norms, practices and laws across 160 countries. The SIGI comprises country profiles, a classification of countries and a database; it serves as a research, policy and advocacy tool for the development community and policy makers.

The SIGI covers five dimensions of discriminatory social institutions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect women’s lives: discriminatory family code, restricted physical integrity, son bias, restricted resources and assets, and restricted civil liberties. The SIGI’s variables quantify discriminatory social institutions such as unequal inheritance rights, early marriage, violence against women, and unequal land and property rights.

In the 2014 edition of the SIGI, Finland was not classified in the SIGI due to lack of full dataset. It has lower discrimination in restricted access to resources and assets and higher discrimination in restricted civil liberties. Read the full country profile and access the data here:


In Janauary 1987, the Act on Equality between Women and Men was introduced with revisions in 1995 and 2002. The Act places a duty for promoting equality purposefully and systematically on all authorities and employers as well as in education, teaching and research. In 1992, discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and family care responsibilities was prohibited. Since 1995, the Act also stipulated that if the number of the staff in a business exceeds 30 employees on a regular basis, the employer must draw up an equality plan every year and implement measures promoting equality. The Amendment of 1995 includes a quota system; in official committees and councils the proportion of representatives of either sex should not be below 40%. The Constitution of 1999 similarly enshrines the principle of gender equality.


The labour market participation rate of women (72%) is almost as high as that of men (76.2%). Most women (83%), even mothers of small children, mainly work full time. One of the reasons for this is the extensive system of public childcare and school meals that make it possible for both parents to work full time. Paid parental leave entitlement is 263 days. For the first 105 days, parental allowance is paid to the mother and for the next 158 days it can be paid either to the mother or the father. Parents can also take childcare leave with full employment security to look after a child under the age of three, though both parents cannot be on full-time leave at the same time. Acording to the Finnish Barometer (a report produced by Finnish Statistics), both men and women were supportive of the two-provider family model allowed by this policy. The fertility rate (1.8 children per woman) is higher than the OECD average.

The pay gap between men and women in Finland (20%) is, however, above the OECD average. This is in part explained by the fact that more women work in the public sector and more men in the private sector, where wages differ considerably, but discrimination is the primary cause of the pay gap.


The percentage of students transitioning to tertiary education is lower than the OECD average: only 20%. Women constitute 56% of university students. More women study subjects in the social and health-care sectors and in the humanities, art and education sectors. Only 22% of students studing engineering sciences are women; and 32% of students in mathematics and computer science are women - this is however significantly higher than in other OECD countries.

Political Empowerment

In 1906, Finland became the first country in Europe to give women the right to vote in national elections and the first country in the world to give them right to be electoral candidates. In the first elections in 1907, nineteen women were elected as Members of Parliament, 9.5 % of the total 200 MPs.

In 2011, several political parties, such as the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Christian Party, have women leaders. Women's organisations of all political parties co-operate over party lines, and with non-political women's organisations, in the organisation NYTKIS, The Coalition of Finnish Women's Associations, since the late 1980s.

The proportion of women members of Parliament has steadily increased in past decades, reaching 40% in the 2007 elections. In Parliament, women have been particularly involved with legislation concerning social issues, culture and education. In the national government they have served as Ministers in these traditionally female fields but also as Ministers of Defense, Environment, Traffic and Justice. Since June 2010, Finland has had a female Prime Minister, Mari Kiviniemi (of the Center Party). Finland's first female President, Tarja Halonen, first won office in 2000, and was voted into office for a second term in 2006.

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women?  

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Finland, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Finland


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