INTERVIEW: Parental Leave Boosted Gender Equality in Iceland, Envoy Says


Tokyo, March 8 (Jiji Press)--The early introduction of a parental leave system that not only covers mothers but also fathers was an "extremely important step" in boosting gender equality in Iceland, the country's ambassador-designate to Japan, Stefan Johannesson, said in a recent interview.

Iceland, touted by The New York Times as being at the forefront of global efforts to minimize gender inequality, has been ranked first on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index ranking for 11 consecutive years through 2020.

Japan, meanwhile, ranked 121st in the index's latest ranking. The country has a long way to go in closing the gender gap, as seen in a recent controversy over a sexist remark made by former prime minister Yoshiro Mori during his time as president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee.

Johannesson, 62, said that the introduction of the leave system for both parents in 2000 helped "diminish the structural bias ... and unconscious bias in our society" that it is the duty of mothers to raise children.

"(The system) is very much a part of our society today, and it is expected that men take paternal leave just as mothers take maternal leave," he said. Companies in Iceland now recruit young people on the assumption that they will take parental leave regardless of gender, the ambassador-designate added.

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Jiji Press