Norwegian PM: Gender equality is 'essential for a sustainable recovery' from coronavirus

Norwegian PM: Gender equality is 'essential for a sustainable recovery' from coronavirus
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Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said this week that gender equality is "essential for a sustainable recovery" from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a keynote speech at Tuesday's "Reykjavik Global Forum — Women Leaders 2020," Solberg noted an "alarming increase" in women's poverty, rising rates of unintended pregnancies and increased reports of violence against women globally, ABC News reported.

"The pandemic's impact on women have been evident in our own country as well," she said. "We see that unpaid care work at home isn't evenly distributed between men and women."

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A September study from LeanIn.org and consulting firm McKinsey & Company showed at least one in four women in the U.S. are considering career changes or leaving the workforce altogether due to pandemic-related reasons.

The study also found mothers were three times as likely as fathers to undertake more housework and childcare during the pandemic.

Four times more women than men left the U.S. workforce in September, according to the National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit gender equity organization.

"In short, crises tends to reinforce traditional gender roles," Solberg said Tuesday.

Women in the U.S. have seen unemployment rates jump from 3.4 percent in February to 6.7 percent in October, data from the Labor Department show. The data does not account for women who entirely left the workforce, only reflecting those who are actively seeking work.

Solberg said a "key factor" in gender equality must be prioritizing improving education for women and girls who will eventually enter the workforce.

"Our experience is that it pays to invest in women's and girls' education and participation in the workforce," she said. "Women's participation in the labor market contributes more to Norway's prosperity than our petroleum revenue."

When asked whether she thinks countries with female leaders tend to fare better than other nations, Solberg steered the question toward Norway's respect for human rights.

"I do believe that democratic countries where human rights are respected and where women are able to reach top positions in society are also the countries that are the best-equipped to handled crises by COVID-19."

Norway has recorded a comparatively low total of 26,511 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic's outset, with 285 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

--Updated on Sept. 27, 2021