How Sweden's gender-balanced snow-clearing may offer Canada tips on budgeting

From CBC - January 22, 2018

In trying to understand what Finance Minister Bill Morneau means when he talks about viewing the federal budget through a gender lens, consider Sweden's experience with the humble and oh-so-Canadian snowplow.

The Scandinavian country has literally taken the concept ofgender-balanced budgetingto the streets.

In 2015, Stockholm brought a gender analysis to its snow-clearing policy, which ultimately helped make it easier for pedestrians, mainly women, move around the city after snowfalls.

The city found that, statistically, more men commute by car, while women are more likely to walk, bike or take public transport.

So officials decided that sidewalks, bike paths,bus stops and the walkways to daycares would be plowed first, followed by the main roads. A handful of Swedish cities have followed suit.

It's not just snowplows.

Sweden has also adopted a "feminist foreign policy," which makesensuring women and girls' human rightsan obligation within their international commitments. Canada's governmentunveiled its feminist foreign aid policy last June.

Every year, the Swedish Women's Lobby reviews the government's budget to see how resourcesare divided between men and women.

"The thing about Sweden is they are the kings, or shall we say the queens, of gender budgeting," Canadian economistArmineYalnizyan told CBC.

It's for those reasons that Morneau will meet with his Swedish counterpart, Finance MinisterMagdalena Andersson, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week to talk about Sweden's experiencewith gender analysis and budgeting.

Meantime, the man overseeing Stockholm's transit system says more pedestrians than motorists are injured when there is snow and ice on the road, so it made economic sense to clear those pathways first.

"We are not putting women over men. It's called equal, so it's supposed to be equal, which it has not been [in the past]," said Daniel Helldn, Stockholm's vice-mayor of transportation and a member of thegreen party, in an interview with CBC News.

"I would not say that the men in the cars are complaining when they are sitting in the car, because it's easy for a car to go in 10centimetresof snow than for women, or men for that [matter], who are walking."

Promotes walking, public transportation

That does not mean the merits of gender-equal snow clearing have been accepted by everyone.

"Some think it's ridiculous," said Helldn.

In 2016, the policy was internationally mocked, particularly by some conservative media, after buses and trains were stalled following a storm.

Data needed


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