Since the Swedish Equality Act was passed in 1980, only ten cases of pay discrimation have made their way to the courts.
Since the Swedish Equality Act was passed in 1980, only ten cases of pay discrimation have made their way to the courts. Credit: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Equal pay law did not close the gender gap

Researcher: Gender pay discrimination is embedded in the labor market
1:11 min

Equal pay legislation in Sweden has not resulted in less wage discrimination between men and women, according to research by Lena Svenaeus.

Svenaeus is a former equality ombudsman and current doctoral student at Lund University. She has spent her entire career working on the gender wage gap.

The legislation has not worked,” she told Swedish Radio.

Her thesis research has found that the legal attempts for pay equality have acted as a façade to give the impression that the issue of equal pay is being addressed.

In the 37 years since the Swedish Equality Act was passed, only ten cases have made their way to court and in only one of those cases did the court rule that the pay discrepancy was discriminatory. This is due, in part, to the long and expensive process of seeing a case through.  

Svenaeus believes more work must be done to close the gender pay gap, but this issue has no easy fix since this type of discrimination is systemic.

“At one time, it was open and completely legitimate for women to be paid 30 percent (of a man’s salary) regardless of whether they were doing the same or similar jobs and that has never been done away with,” she said. “It is embedded in the structures of our labor market.”

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