It’s a woman’s world –and much more- in Iceland
The BBC reports that the World Economic Forum has found Iceland to b
e the country with the greatest parity between the genders. Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at Iceland’s fertility rates to see if gender equality came at the expense of large families. It does not. In fact, according to John Carlin at The Guardian, Iceland simultaneously has Europe’s highest birth, divorce, and female employment rates.
This would probably be a recipe for social disaster in most of the rest of the world. But Iceland has negligible levels of crime, strong family cohesion, and high levels of both subjective happiness and living standards. Is there something we can learn from the Icelandic experience?
The Guardian article gushes with enthusiasm for the Icelandic way. A taboo-free and open-minded culture allows unconventional family arrangements to thrive. The Icelandic approach to relationships, marriage and family is casual and eminently pragmatic. Instead of leading to distress, poverty and broken families, high rates of birth, divorce, and female employment accompany strong, though patchwork, families and hardy children.
Cultures are complicated. They evolve organically over the course of centuries and are sustained under highly specific circumstances. Most fundamentally, to live like Icelanders, people would have to amend time-cherished beliefs about marriage and family. They might also have to reconsider the role of the state
in supporting motherhood.
There are certainly things to be said for living “free of cant and prejudice and taboo.” But to overcome basic notions of family values is no simple matter. Unfortunately for those of us who might consider moving, the language is notoriously difficult.
Image by Flickr user Gunna used under a Creative Commons Attribution License