Are the Swedes Good at Everything?

Kira Cochrane in New Statesman (via Political Theory Daily Review):

The Swedes seem to slide effortlessly into first place – or thereabouts – in bloody everything worth prizing, don’t they? They are healthy – they have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. They are friendly – they have just been named the best country in Europe when it comes to welcoming immigrants and helping them to settle.

They are intelligent – they have the highest per capita ratio of Nobel laureates. They gave us Abba, the most karaoke-friendly pop group of all time. And last year the Daily Mail asked “Is Sweden the most boring country in the world?” before giving the country a right drubbing. Now, if there’s anything that can establish something’s innate coolness as quickly as a thorough slagging from the Daily Mail, I have yet to discover it.

And, if all that weren’t enough, for the second year running Sweden has been named as the country that has done the most to reduce gender disparity. The Global Gender Gap Report 2007, put together by the World Economic Forum, surveyed 128 countries and considered four markers of equality – economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment and health. They found that “while no country has yet achieved gender equality, Sweden, Norway and Finland have all closed over 80 per cent of the gender gap and thus serve as a useful benchmark for international comparisons”. The UK didn’t do too badly, although we dropped out of the top ten, to number 11, well behind our Nordic rivals. And the world’s leading economy, the US, plummeted from 23rd to 31st – just one place ahead of Kazakhstan.

Which begs the question – what makes Sweden so good for women?