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Gender-political situation in Finland


Legal situation:




Brief description and evaluation

Gender equality policy in Finland is organised at state and non-state level. Numerous strong national women's organisations can be found in civil society, including within the political parties, though there is no visible, organised men’s policy. What's more, gender and women’s research is prominent and has a well-developed network. A variety of state institutions for gender equality exists at national level, including an ombudsperson and a respective arbitration and complaints body. One noteworthy body is the gender statistics department at the national statistics office, which publishes information at regular intervals.

Together with neighbouring Sweden, Finland achieves a high rate of female representation in political decision-making, without the benefit of binding regulation. 40% of the leaders of major political parties are women. However, the recent decrease of women’s representation in municipal government highlights the ever-present risk of a backlash against the increasing power of women’s voices.

Although less than a 1/3 of private company board members are female (27%), Finland has the highest percentage of women on boards in the EU. Only public bodies are required (by political decision rather than law) to have an “equitable proportion” (at least 40%) of both women and men.

The socio-economic position of women in Finland is less secure. Although according to the latest statistics (2010), almost 62% of women work full-time and women’s salaries have risen faster than those of men, the gender pay gap remains significant at 19.4% and is narrowing only slowly. Inadequate remuneration of maternity leave (79%) of salary and a low proportion of infants receiving formal care (28% of under 3 year olds and 77% of those between 3 and school-age) lead to a large gender differential in employment rates for parents of children under 12 (24.5%). In addition, only 39% of dependent elderly persons receive formal care.

The trend to close shelters for women victims of violence demonstrates a wider lack of understanding for the gender dimension of family violence. There is no decrease in the high numbers of women murdered by their male spouses and ex-spouses. The government’s National Action Plan on Violence Against Women is ambitious, but lacks funding and human resources. Regarding sexual education and reproductive rights, on the other hand, the country has reached very high standards.

Source: Quick profile on Finland, the European Women’s Lobby (in English)

The Ministry of Social Affairs plays a key role in advancing gender equality:

Every three to four years, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published an Equality Barometer together with the Statistics Finland. The most recently available online publication dates back to 2008.

The respective amendments and additions can be found in English here.

The Ombudsman for Minorities: (English version; available in several languages) or Ombudsman for Equality - Home

Gender equality in Finland - the early years:

Finland led the way in the European fight for women's rights even though the progress achieved in the country was afforded very little attention in the discussion that was ensuing in Central Europe. Patriarchal marriage property law was repealed as early as 1885, and Finland's lower house introduced the separation of property. Under this law, women retained their right to their own property, even in marriage. Finland also blazed the trail for women's citizenship rights: in 1906, women there became the first in Europe to receive full voting rights.
(Source: Wikipedia, Women's Rights)

Gender equality has long been a fundamental value in Finland. It is embedded in the constitu-tion in general, and specifically in the Equality Act.

The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health plays a key role in the advancement of gender equality by:

  • preparing bills,
  • describing and monitoring the gender equality situation nationwide,
  • coordinating the development of gender equality activities,
  • furthering the implementation of government measures.

The main topics underlying Finland’s promotion of gender equality are:

  • Gender mainstreaming
  • Equality in working life
  • Equal pay
  • Equality in education
  • Women and decision-making authority
  • Work-life balance
  • Prevention of violence against women
  • Men and equality

Gender equality principles in Finland also cover equity irrespective of age, origin, language, faith or health. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for implementing gender equality in the workplace through the network of health and safety.

Every three to four years, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, in conjunction with the statistical office, publishes the Equality Barometer (latest version from 2008).

Current situation:
On 21.10.2010, the Finnish government approved the Report on Gender Equality. It will now be sent to parliament for debate. This is the first report of its kind to be produced in Finland. Its aim is to evaluate the government’s gender equality policy and to compare data spanning the past ten years. At the core of the report is the definition of future policy up to 2020.

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Legal situation

Gender equality law

Act on Equality between Women and Men (1987, amended/extended in 1992, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005):

Focus: working life, also covers quota regulations, duty of companies with 30 or more em-ployees to adopt gender equality measures, positive influence.

The Equality Act was introduced in 1987. The Act specifies a duty to purposefully and systematically promote gender equality among all agencies and employers and in vocational training as well as in education, teaching and research. The respective changes and extensions can found here.

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Anti-discrimination law

The Body of Equality with its Ombudsman for Equality monitors various forms of discrimi-nation, most notably racial and ethnic-based acts as well as human trafficking. Its website is available in various languages, above all those of nationalities migrating to Finland. The current Ombudsperson for Equality is Eva Biaudet.

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Laws on quotas, especially in the political and business communities

One of the key aims of the Equality Act is to ensure that women and men can participate in planning and decision-making processes in different sectors of society on an equitable basis.

The 40 per cent quota provision shall be applied to

  • Government committees, advisory boards and working groups, among others
  • municipal bodies and bodies established for the purposes of intermunicipal cooperation, excluding municipal councils.

see also: Quotas and the equitable principle (in English)

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Quotas in state administration

Scope of application in state administration

The quota principle applies to Government committees, advisory boards and other similar bodies. The quota provision will even be applied to a body of a committee nature if it exercises power of decision. The quota provision must also be adhered to in bodies appointed by ministries, such as working groups. Delegations appointed by a public authority representing authorities or a sector of administration in international cooperation are included in the bodies referred to in the quota provision.

According to the provision, the proportion of both women and men in these bodies must be at least 40 per cent. The provision does not, however, apply to an investigation of a committee nature carried out by one person. If a steering group or an expert group is appointed to support this kind of investigation, the 40 per cent rule of the Equality Act will apply.

The quota provision shall not be applied, if a committee, advisory board, board or other similar body appoints a subcommittee/division or, for example, a working group from amongst its own members or external experts.


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Quotas in municipal administration

Scope of application in municipal administration

Under Section 17 of the Finnish Local Government Act, municipal bodies comprise the council, the municipal board and its subcommittees, boards of management and their divisions, and commissions. The quota provision of the Equality Act does not specify what is meant by a municipal body. However, the Supreme Administrative Court has concluded that, in certain cases, the municipal bodies referred to in the quota provision may include bodies other than those listed in Section 17 of the Local Government Act, such as working groups. The quota requirement does not apply to municipal councils that are elected. The provision does not apply to the presiding officers.

The quota provision also applies to bodies established for the purpose of intermunicipal cooperation, such as the councils, meetings and boards of joint municipal authorities, and other joint municipal bodies such as boards, directorates, commissions and advisory boards on regional cooperation. In many cases, individual municipalities choose the members of intermunicipal cooperation bodies, such as the councils of joint municipal authorities and the joint bodies referred to in Section 77 of the Local Government Act. The municipalities concerned must ensure beforehand by negotiation that the final composition of each body is in accordance with the quota provision of the Equality Act.


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The Equitability Provision

The equitability provision shall apply to

  • executive and administrative bodies of agencies and institutions
  • companies in which the Government or a municipality is the majority shareholder
  • bodies of indirect public administration exercising public authority. Bodies exercising public authority are, for example, pension institutions, chambers of commerce and private educational institutions.


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Other laws/statutory regulations and government programmes

The Finnish government has decided to take decisive steps to promote gender equality in all decision-making processes. The government in Finland has summarised its key gender equality benchmarks into an action plan.

The current 2012-2015 National Action Plan (36 pages, 436 KB, in English) focuses in particular on the following points: Gender mainstreaming continues to be funded in political decisions: Each ministry is required to initiate and implement at least one specific gender mainstreaming and gender equality project; domestic violence is treated as a political issue and remedies are developed to counteract it.

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Parties, organisations within civil society:

NYTKIS - The Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations (available in Finnish and partly in English)

  • founded in 1988
  • co-operation forum for women’s associations
  • works for the advancement of women, de facto gender equality and social justice
  • watchdog for women’s rights: monitors legislation, decision making and research
  • responds to political decision making and social issues from women’s point of view

The objectives of NYTKIS are to achieve equality between women and men, to end women’s discrimination and to promote realisation of human rights. NYTKIS brings together women’s associations from several key sectors of society, e.g. from the political and research sectors.

NYTKIS has, as its members, the women’s associations of all the political parties represented in Parliament, as well as three politically unaffiliated women’s associations.

NYTKIS member organisations:  The Association for Women’s Studies in Finland, Christian Democratic Women in Finland, The Feminist Association Union, Finnish Social Democratic Women, The Green Women’s Association, Left Women, The National Council of Women of Finland, The Women of True Finns, The Women’s League of the Coalition Party
The Women’s Organisation of the Centre Party, The Women’s Organisation of the Swedish People’s Party

The highest authority is vested in the biannual meetings of the association. The board, with representatives from all the NYTKIS member organisations, acts as the planning and executive body. The Secretary General and the Coordinator implement the board’s decisions and organise the activities. NYTKIS receives statutory funding from the Ministry of Education, and, from time to time, funding for specific projects. Regional NYTKIS-committees advance equality at the local level.

Activities in Finland

  • participation in the Council for Equality
  • co-operation with various non-governmental organisations promoting women’s rights, human rights and international development co-operation
  • statements
  • publications
  • awareness raising, training and education
  • seminars and other such events
  • regional NYTKIS-committees

International activities

  • UN World Conferences
  • participation in the European Women’s Lobby (
  • participation in NOKS, the Nordic platform for women’s co-operation
  • co-operation with Baltic and Russian women’s associations

NYTKIS - Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations
Bulevardi 11 A 1
FIN-00120 Helsinki

Secretary General:
+358 50 469 6242

+358 40 709 0007

The National Council of Women of Finland (available in Finnish, Swedish, and partly in English)

The National Council of Women of Finland was established in 1911 as the Finnish branch of the International Council of Women (founded in 1888). Today the Council has 61 member organizations which altogether have nearly half a million individual members. An umbrella organisation independent of party politics, the Council acts as a national link and a forum for discussion for its member organizations. The activities of the Council are financed by the Ministry of Education, private funds and foundations, member organizations, and trade and industry.

The objective of the National Council of Women of Finland is to promote equality, human rights, and the status of women in the Finnish society. The Council strives to bring gender mainstreaming into the framework of society and to achieve gender equality both at work and in the family. Mental and physical integrity must also be guaranteed for every human being.

The National Council of Women of Finland is a member of the following organizations and networks: International Council of Women (ICW), European Women's Lobby (EWL), WINNERS (Women's Network for Nondiscrimination, Equality, Rights and Solidarity). In cooperation with the Finland–Russia Society and Association for Cooperation with Nordic Countries "NORDEN".

Beijing Plus 15: The NGO Parallel Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in Finland during 2005–2010. The report was compiled in cooperation with the member organizations of the National Council of Women of Finland and different associates.

The Office of the National Council of Women of Finland
Fredrikinkatu 39 C 22
FI-00120 Helsinki
tel +358 (0)9 494 217
fax +358 (0)9 494 617

Green Women's Association (available in Finnish, and partly in English)

The Green Women’s Association was founded in Tampere in 1993. Over the years the association has become an important and active part of the national Green League. There are 16 local branches of Green Women’s Association all over Finland.

The Green Women’s association offers a platform for women who carry their responsibilities of the environment and want to enhance equality in the society. Green feminism is a mean for repairing the structures of society so that it will be fairer and free of discrimination and futile generalizations. For us the gender is the ground on which we stand, not the sealing against which we bump.

The Green Women’s association wants an equal society where the weak and the sick are taken care of. A green woman is not a passive object but an active subject who is ready to tackle even the most difficult matters.

Kokoomuksen Naisten Liitto ry. (only available in Finnish)

The fundamental goals of the women's league of the coalition party are those of the party: to strengthen Finland's independence and to safeguard and develop a democratic political and legal system that is based on peace and security among people. A specific task of the women's league is to promote women's positions in society and to encourage women to occupy political and decision-making posts. The women's league also participates in peace and development cooperation projects.

Kokoomuksen Naisten Liitto ry.
Kansakoulukuja 3, 3.krs
00100 Helsinki


Government, ministries:

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (MSAH) (available in English)

Equality matters fall within the scope of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland. Those responsible for the practical implementation of equality are: 

  • The Ombudsman for Equality, 
  • The Equality Unit,
  • The Equality Board,
  • The Council for Gender Equality.

For this reason, the MSAH plays a key role in promoting gender equality by

  • preparing legislation
  • monitoring the situation of gender equality nationwide
  • coordinating the development of activities on gender equality
  • promoting the implementation of the objectives of the government's equality policy.

The MSAH is responsible for implementing equality in workplaces via the network of occupational safety and health inspectorates. Overall, equality matters in Finland are the remit of the Ministry of the Interior.

Every three, four years the MSAH and Statistics Finland publish the Equality Barometer , which reports on the state of gender equality in the country and the gendered division of work and power relations in different areas of life.

The Gender Barometer is being published since 1998. Four Gender Equality Barometers have been produced: in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2008.

The Gender Equality Barometer published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in 2008 can be found here.

P.O. Box 33, FI-00023 Government
Telephone +358 295 16001

The Ombudsman for Equality (available in English)

The Ombudsman for Equality and the Office of the Ombudsman were established on 1 January 1987 by the Act on the Ombudsman for Equality and the Equality Board. The Act on Equality between Women and Men came into force at the same time. The Ombudsman for Equality is an independent Authority while performing her legislative duties. The Ombudsman is administratively located within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The Ombudsman for Equality is an independent authority whose main duty is to supervise compliance with the Act on Equality between Women and Men. The Ombudsman has powers on matters related to gender and gender minorities (trans and intersex people). The powers of the Ombudsman consist of both combating discrimination and promoting equality. The Ombudsman carries out her tasks primarily by providing guidance and advice.

Detailed information on its work can be found in the following document:

The Ombudsman for Equality is responsible for  monitoring the observance of the Act on Equality  between Women and Men. The Ombudsman for Equality

  • supervises compliance with the Act on Equality between Women and Men and the prohibition of discrimination and discriminatory job advertising, in particular
  • promotes the purpose of the Act by means of initiatives, advice and counselling
  • provides information about the Equality Act and its application
  • monitors the implementation of the equality between women and men in different sectors of society.

In addition, the Ombudsman for Equality supervises the implementation of protection of gender minorities against discrimination.

Among other things, the annual reports (“Annual report by the Ombudsman for Equality”)  can be found here.

Office of the Ombudsman for Equality
PO Box 33, FI-00023 Government, Finland
Tel. +358 9 16001 (switchboard)
Fax: +358 9 1607 4582


The Equality Unit (in English)

The Equality Unit prepares the government's gender equality policy. In addition, the Unit co-ordinates international issues related to the European Union, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The specific duties of the unit include:

  • Drafting and developing the Government’s gender equality policy in collaboration with other ministries;
  • Tasks related to the mainstreaming of gender equality;
  • Tasks related to the EU’s equality law and policy;
  • Tasks related to international affairs.

The Equality Board (in English)

The Equality Board is an independent committee that oversees compliance with gender equality legislation and resolves matters related to it.

The Government nominates the Equality Board members who serve for a period of three years. The Equality Board consists of a chairperson and four members. The Board has the right to handle and decide on issues, for which it has responsibility under the Equality Act. The Ombudsman presents the cases to the Board. The Equality board can give comments to the courts, which can request a comment from the Board in cases related to gender discrimination and demand compensation. The board can use administrative coercive means. The Ombudsman, the Central Organisation of the Employers’ Association, or the Central Organisation of the Trade Unions can separately bring an issue violating the Act on Equality between Women and Men to the Equality Board. The Equality Board can impose a fine and thus deny the continued or renewed neglect against the Equality Act.


TANE – The Council for Equality (sparse information in English; detailed information available in Finnish)

TANE is a permanent parliamentary council with an advisory function to the state administration. Its objective is to promote gender equality in Finnish society. Founded in 1972 by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health as an advisory body on gender equality matters. It is composed of twelve members of major political parties plus two experts from women's pro-equality organisations.

The Council for Equality is a parliamentary body that works to promote gender equality in societal matters.

The Council serves as an active societal discussion forum in the field of equality policy and promotes gender equality, i.e., by taking initiatives and issuing opinions. It engages in equality discussions with authorities, public and municipal institutions, labour market organisations and other partners.

The General Secretary of the Council for Equality works at the Gender Equality Unit of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The Council has a chairperson and a vice-chairperson and, in addition, eleven other members, each with a personal deputy. Representatives of the National Council of Women in Finland and the Coalition of Finnish Women’s Association for Joint Action (NYTKIS) take part in the Council’s activities as permanent expert members.

The Council for Equality:

  • Monitors and promotes the implementation of equality between women and men in society;
  • Takes initiatives and makes proposals as well as issues opinions to develop legislation and other measures affecting gender equality;
  • Encourages co-operation between various authorities, social partners and other organisations and interest groups;
  • Follows international development in the field of gender equality.

The Council of Equality may set up subcommittees and working groups. Examples of such subcommittees include: a Subcommittee on Men’s Issues, a Subcommittee for Women’s Studies, and a Subcommittee on Women’s and Men’s Image in the Media.

The subcommittee on Men’s Issues has investigated ways of raising men’s interest in gender equality, looked at men’s particular problems from an equality perspective, and promoted men’s studies. The Council for Equality encourages men to participate in childcare. Topics include new fatherhood, violence, crises and new gender roles. Earlier the Council had a subcommittee against Violence that discussed violence against women and tried to find ways of removing and preventing violence.

Seminars and publications are prepared on the initiative of the subcommittees. The Council for Equality produces background information for discussions and evaluations that further mainstream the equality objectives throughout the welfare state, especially in income transfers and employment policies.

The Council for Equality has supported women’s studies since the 1980s. Today, women’s studies have become well established within the Finnish universities and research institutes.


Council for Gender Equality (TANE)

Postal address: PO Box 33, FI-00023 Government 
Visiting address: Kirkkokatu 14, 00170 Helsinki, Finland  
Tel +358 9 16001   

Statistics Finland has a unit for Population and Gender Statistics.

The English-version paperback “Women and Men in Finland 2011”, last updated in 2013. The report is updated and published every two years.

The publication is available from Statistics Finland Sales Services
Telephone (Sales): +358 9 1734 2011
Fax: +358 9 1734 2500
Postal address: Sales, P.O.Box 4V, FI-00022 Statistics Finland

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Other gender actors?

Centre for gender equality information in Finland (available in Finnish, Swedish, and partly in English)

“Minna” is the centre and website for information and research on gender equality in Finland. The objective of Minna is to provide services for the public administration, politicians, gender equality actors, scholars, students, NGOs and the general public. Minna is funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and attached to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in Helsinki.

 Minna – Centre for Gender Equality Information

  • collects information about research and statistics concerning gender equality
  • provides information in case of domestic and foreign requests
  • assists in retrieving information on gender equality research and gender research
  • co-operates with Finnish researchers, NGOs and public administrators
  • co-operates with the other Nordic centers for gender equality information
  • co-operates with the European Gender Equality Institute (EIGE)
  • administrates website
  • service in English, Finnish and Swedish – Website for gender equality and gender research

  • latest news about Finnish research and projects
  • information on varying themes concerning gender equality
  • statistics
  • database for relevant Finnish dissertations
  • database for Finnish experts specialized in gender research and gender equality
  • list of forthcoming events
  • international and domestic links


National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Minna - Centre for Gender Equality Information
Mannerheimintie 170
P.O.Box 30
FI-00271 Helsinki, Finland

UNIONI, The League of Finnish Feminists (only available in Finnish)

Its goals are to eliminate discrimination against women, to make female culture visible, to foster gender equality and to strengthen and highlight the feminist impact of women. The objective is to achieve a humane society based on gender equality and gender cooperation.

Naisasialiitto Unioni ry
Bulevardi 11 A 1
FIN-00120 Helsinki
Tel.: +358 (0)9 643 158

Svenka Kvinnoforbundet - The Women's Organisation of the Swedish People's Party in Finland (available in Finnish and Swedish, and partly in English)

Svenska Kvinnoförbundet is the Women’s Organisation of the Swedish People’s Party in Finland. We are a political platform that works from a liberal feminist perspective for gender equality on the political, social and economic level in Finland. Working for gender equality is our most important task. Our vision is a society in which everyone has equal rights, opportunities and possibilities regardless of gender. As the women’s organisation of the Swedish People’s Party in Finland we have knowledge and experience in promoting equality and minority issues in Finnish politics. In order to improve the status of women in the world we work together with women’s organisations on local, national and global levels.

Svenska Kvinnoförbundet
Simonsgatan 8 A
00100 Helsingfors 

Kokoomuksen Naisten Liitto ry.
Women's league of the coalition party
Kokoomuksen Naisten Liitto ry.
Kansakoulukuja 3, 3.krs
00100 Helsinki
Fax: 0207 488 505
Contact details can be found under the tab "yhteystiedot".

The fundamental goals of the women's league of the coalition party are those of the party: to strengthen Finland's independence and to safeguard and develop a democratic political and legal system that is based on peace and security among people. A specific task of the women's league is to promote women's positions in society and to encourage women to occupy political and decision-making posts. The women's league also participates in peace and development cooperation projects.

Women Of The Democratic League Of Finnish People
(Suomen Kansan Demokraattinen Liitto/SKDL)
Sturenkatu 4
00150 Helsinki
Tel: 358-0-77 081
No website or e-mail available – it is not certain whether this intra-party association still exists.

Green Women's Association
Eerikinkatu 27 A 6
00180 Helsinki Finland
Tel (09) 693 3691
Fax (09) 693 3799

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The Association for Women's Studies in Finland

Gender/Women's studies at universities:

Women's studies are organised in a network known as HILMA: or

The Finnish Research School in Women’s and Gender Studies
This is an inter-disciplinary postgraduate school for the dynamic, growing field of women's and gender studies in Finland. Here, dissertations are supervised, annual follow-up meetings take place and regular courses and theme-based seminars are held. The Research School works with various partners to organise in-house and international seminars.

  • Naistutkimus = Kvinnoforskning (= Feminist Research)
  • Tulva (

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Description of state of source material

Fundamental information on Finland’s equality policy is quickly and readily available online, especially in English. The keywords that work well for research purposes are “gender equality policies”.

Very useful, but unfortunately the information compiled on the following website is already seven years old: Overview of gender equality issues in Finland

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This study was conducted by Tanja Berger und Pamela Dorsch and comissioned by the Gunda Werner Institute of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010. Last updated: 2013.


All images, except marked otherwise Public Domain CC0