Sweden Championed Gender Equality to Raise Birth Rates (And it Worked)

In industrialized countries, especially the United States and countries in Europe, the birth rate has been consistently declining. In the United States, this decline has been seen for decades. According to data from The National Center for Health Statistics, the birth rate in 2013 is second lowest only to that of 1997, and is down in almost every demographic category, with the exception being among women over 30 years old.

This is great news for teenagers, as this means that teen pregnancy is at an all-time low, but it’s not such great news for those worried about a rapidly aging workforce and a declining population that will not only be unable to replace retirees but will not make up enough in Social Security to ensure its continuation.

However, this declining birth rate shouldn’t surprise anyone. Women are gaining degrees at a higher pace than men, and with those degrees, they are starting careers they hope to be able to keep throughout their entire lives. Gone are the days when women would marry and have children shortly after high school, foregoing college and career in favor of family. Now, women want degrees, and they want to put those degrees to use, which is no surprise, either, especially considering the cost of higher education.

Furthermore, women who do have careers are worried that a pregnancy will work against them in the workplace. Yes, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against women because of a pregnancy, but it tends to happen anyway. Women with children are often passed up for promotions in favor of men — even if those men have children. Our society still sees women as primary caregivers in their homes and, therefore, it is assumed that a woman will need more time off or will not be as focused as a man. To make matters worse, paid family leave is a benefit of some jobs rather than a right for every job, making it difficult for families to take more time off than necessary for the birth of a child.

It’s no wonder, then, that women are deciding either to have fewer children, no children at all, or to wait until they are established enough in their careers to have children at all.

This has concerned policymakers for quite some time. However, policymakers have often taken a conservative approach, stating that feminism is to blame for declining birth rates. On the surface, this seems to make sense to many people: women are more educated and empowered, therefore women aren’t having as many children. However, the answer to the problem of a declining birthrate might be to champion feminism and empower women more. For that possibility, we turn to Sweden as an example.

Since the turn of the century, Sweden has had population policy as an important issue. In the early 1900s, Sweden’s birth rate was around 4, but fell to 2 in the 1930s and reached an all-time low of 1.7 in 1935. Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, however, were able to wrestle the issue away from conservatives and promote a more feminist approach:

In the course of time, the stated goal of population policy in Sweden was largely superseded by the quest for full gender equality. Policies favoring gender equality helped sustain a relatively high birth rate. The rhetorical emphasis shifted from population policy to gender equality, but the two goals were really one…

This makes perfect sense. Help women maintain their education and career while they have a family, and they will be more likely to have one — or a larger one — in the first place.

Much attention has been paid to comprehensive family leave policies (or a lack thereof) in industrialized nations. It’s time we follow Sweden’s example and provide women as well as men with the time off and flexible policies that make having a family both desirable and possible. Sweden has proved it can work, and we should follow in their example.

Photo Credit: george ruiz

123 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks for the article.

Anon I.
Anon I.about a year ago

The picture chosen for this article is perfect - outsourced reproduction. Fewer and fewer babies born in Sweden are Swedish and the birth rate statistics are ugly lies that hide this. Swedes are slowly but surely going extinct and that is sad as it is a loss of human diversity.

Anon I.
Anon I.about a year ago

[CONTINUED] a government-run political breeding program. If this is the progressive idea of "repairing birthrates" then it might be better to leave the birthrates low until a sane alternative is possible and avoid giving the progressives more recruits. When parents have kids that they don't even have time for because of their careers and hand them over to the state, who are they trying to fool? It is a cruel joke. Instead of having two incomes, working and paying massive taxes so the state can raise your children, just work less (one income) and take the time to raise your family yourself. Stop being so materialistic and always needing the latest gadgets; put the money where it really matters and be content with what you have, live simply. Stop paying for the giant state childcare (which would no longer be necessary if people looked after their own) and use those savings to take care of your own family.

Anon I.
Anon I.about a year ago

Sweden's example is suicide. About 20% of Sweden's population is now non-Swedish, and the foreign-born population has a significantly higher birth rate. Saying that Sweden has a high birth rate is extremely misleading - it is not the native Swedes that have this birthrate. The Swedish government is paying foreigners to replace its own people. And the high fertility of foreigners in Sweden has nothing to do with feminism because they have no concept of feminism at all: Sweden now has one of the highest amounts of rape per capita in the world thanks to Islamic migrants.

Furthermore, saying that feminism is to blame for declining birth rates among ethnic Swedes is completely true. Beyond the fact that it turned women away from families and towards careers, it has emasculated the country and prevented it from defending itself against demographic replacement out of fear of being labeled "racist". This used to be the country of the Vikings. Feminism has caused Sweden to outsource its own reproduction because its women were too busy working to have kids.

Artificially facilitating more births among ethnic Swedes by allowing the State to take care of them is a band-aid solution and a nightmare as the children end up being raised by the State rather than their own parents. This allows the State to further indoctrinate the children and turn them into emasculated, blindly obedient progressive drones. This is not a family in any sense of the word, it is a government-run political b

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

We are getting better in the USA, we elect those little bundles of joy to presidency.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

In the United States unwed pregnancies are taboo. Other countries accept the little bundles of joy.

Holly McTeer
Holly McTeer2 years ago

I do not believe about united states going down, every time I look on fb or talk to someone, someone else is pregnant.

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson2 years ago

Population policy is frequently short-sighted.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado2 years ago

Noted.

Cecilia Engfelt
Cecilia Engfelt2 years ago

Continued (see below) ...The fact that immigrants always get the blame when a country’ perform badly financially is a another issue so I will continue with the issue of so called overpopulation
Until all women and men are aware of their human rights, those applied condoms and other contraceptives no longer being a taboo then we’ll see have problems with some “overcrowded” nations rather than an overall problem. What we really need to do is to share our resources better, educate ourselves and our children about safe (and mutually desired sexual intercourse).
Fortunately we do not have the problem of overpopulation in Sweden. Indeed we have room for more people. All citizens of Sweden have their basic needs covered such as access to clean water (from the tap!), sufficient food, sufficient clothing and a roof on top of their heads (education is free of charge, health care (including dental) is free until the age of 19.
What I wish for is to make family planning methods available for all women (and men) around the world. And make family support accessible (I am not talking money) to vulnerable adults (or "in need"), such as family counseling guidance.
We all need help at some point in our lives, and some more than others. Jesus wasn't an egoist; Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t, Martin Luther King wasn’t and Dalai Lama isn't and so forth.

Love life!