Friday, February 4, 2011

Scandinavian family values

To follow up on my rant earlier in this week on "The downside" of women "opting out" of the paid workforce, this just caught my eye in the January 29th issue of The Economist:

A new paper, "The Nordic Way," submitted by Nordic governments to this week's World Economic Forum at Davos, hails Nordic citizens as "secular-rational" individualists, liberated by the state from any obligation to support elderly parents and given the freedom to work by cheap day care for all (in Sweden, more than 80% of two-year-olds attend preschool, often for six hours a day). Mr. Reinfeldt himself suggests that women do not just help the economy by working, they gain autonomy from men, arguing: "At the end of the day, you don't know if your marriage will last."

Mind you, Reinfeldt is Sweden's "center-right" prime minister, not a Marxist feminist, as you might tell from the celebration of "rational individualism" as the driver of gender parity and social harmony. Still. Can you imagine any politician being able to make such a statement in the United States today, without having the Beck-Palin-Fox machinery grind them into sausage?


Because a picture is worth a thousand words:


  1. And Norway recognizes some of the basic "work" of mothering -- the value of breast milk is figured into the GDP.

  2. Wow! How is that calculated?!

  3. Hey! Hadn't realized that you'd posted a follow-up question.


    The Economic Value of Breastfeeding in Australia
    by Smith, Ingham and Dunstone

    From middle of page 3 of the report (page 6 of the online document):

    :... By estimating the population of breastfeeding mothers, and deriving volumes of milk production from data on breastfeeding duration and average milk output, researchers estimated the total annual volume of Norway's human milk production. Using the market value of expressed breastmilk, the monetary value of national human milk production was also derived.”

    From bottom of page 6 of the report (page 10 of the online document):

    “Data on breastfeeding rates in 6 Norwegian counties at ages 3, 6, 9, and 12 months were used to extrapolate breastfeeding prevalence at each monthly interval. The population of infants living in 1992 is approximated from the national data on children born in 1991. Total national breastmilk production was valued at the price the main hospital in Oslo sold human milk to private persons or other hospitals, 344 Norwegian Kroner or US$50 per liter in 1992.”


    2005 Progress Report on Breastfeeding: 10 Years After Beijing

    "The lack of recognition of the economic value of breastfeeding reflects the lack of recognition by nations and the international community of women’s reproductive, caring, and nurturing work. This work, if counted, would contribute substantially to a nation’s GDP. Women’s production of human milk in Mali, if assigned the modest value of $1 US per litre, would equal 5% of the GDP. Human milk banks in Europe charge up to 60 Euros per litre. Only in Norway is women’s contribution to the food supply officially acknowledged."

    And this brings the point home ~


    Breastfeeding and the Measurement of Economic Progress

    A basic building block of the System of National Accounts 93 is an estimate of a nation's capital assets. These assets, of physical (‘man-made’) capital, and natural resources such as land, (along with, theoretically, human capital), produce a production and income flow. Increases in that income flow are measured as economic growth. The capacity of Australian women to breastfeed yields a potential annual flow of economic income.

    Breastfeeding is a skill that is largely culturally acquired. Our society's ability to sustain breastfeeding, and therefore to maintain current or potential production levels of breastmilk and its beneficial health ‘externalities’, depends on a supportive breastfeeding culture. This ‘culture’ or knowledge of breastfeeding, passed on from mother to mother, or through public education and institutional or organisational knowledge, is therefore a valuable economic asset. Whether this asset is used to its full capacity in nourishing children depends on whether institutional arrangements and cultural values or practice are fully supportive of breastfeeding."