Five Nordic nations among top ten reporting violence and harassment at work
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The World Risk Poll reveals that all five Nordic nations are among the top ten countries where the highest proportion of people reported experiencing violence and harassment at work.
High rates were seen in Finland (48%), Iceland (42%), Denmark (42%), Norway (42%) and Sweden (37%). In all five countries, women are significantly more likely than men to say they have been affected, with the biggest gap – 23 percentage points – seen in Denmark.
This data may be surprising, given that Nordic countries often do well on a number of social measures, such as the most recent World Happiness Report, which placed Finland, Denmark, and Iceland at the top of its 2022 rankings1.
Experiences of different forms of violence and harassment at work
Psychological harassment was the most commonly experienced form in the region, with more than three quarters of those in all five countries who reported any experience of violence and harassment at work specifying abuse of this kind. The highest were Finland and Sweden, where 80% of those who experienced violence and harassment said it was psychological.
In addition, almost two in five people (39%) surveyed in Iceland say they have experienced sexual violence and harassment closely followed by Sweden (38%), while 35% of people surveyed in Finland say they have experienced physical violence and harassment in the workplace.
While the data about levels of workplace violence and harassment in Nordic countries may be surprising at first glance, it does show how higher societal awareness of an issue can drive higher recognition and reporting of their experiences by individuals.
Recognition of the problem should in turn drive redoubled efforts to tackle it. The World Risk Poll data helps us to understand both where interventions are needed to address a recognised problem, and where further work may be required to raise awareness and encourage greater reporting.
Telling people about experiences of violence and harassment
While people in the Nordic nations may be in the top ten for reported experience of violence and harassment at work, the findings also show they are among the most likely to tell someone about their experience. Around four in five people who have experienced abuse at work in these countries tell someone about it, with Finland being the highest, at 80%.
This data is in line with a 2015 Eurofound report which found that Finland had one of the highest levels of workers reporting ‘adverse social behaviour’2 when compared with 29 other European countries3. Eurofound also found that countries such as Finland have very low tolerance – in both a legal and wider social sense – of abusive workplace behaviours and this, in turn, may be one reason why these countries report high levels of violence and harassment.
It is positive to see that people in Nordic countries are telling people about their experiences, however there is still a proportion of people in these countries who do not. When asked why they didn’t report their abuse, the most common answer across all five countries was because it was ‘a waste of time’.
Comparisons with other regions
Countries that appeared alongside the Nordic nations in the top ten included Australia, which has the highest proportion of people who say they had experienced violence and harassment at work, at almost half (49%). The others are New Zealand (42%), the United States (42%), Canada (41%), and Greece (38%).
At the other end of the scale, less than 4% of people in Georgia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan say they have experienced violence and harassment in the workplace.
1 Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., Sachs, J. D., De Neve, J.-E., Aknin, L. B., & Wang, S. (Eds.). (2022). World Happiness Report 2022. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
2 According to the 2015 Eurofound report, ‘adverse social behaviour’ is an index (or summary measure) based on six questions “which ask the person if, during the course of their work, they have been subjected to verbal abuse, unwanted sexual attention, threats or humiliating behaviour during the last month, or during the previous 12 months.”
3 Eurofound. (2015). Violence and harassment in European workplaces: Causes, impacts and policies. Dublin.
Nordic countries report some of the highest levels of violence and harassment at work in the world
Five of the top 10 countries where people say they have experienced violence and harassment at work are Nordic nations.
Australia has the highest reported experience of violence and harassment at work in the world.
Half of people in Australia said they had experienced violence and harassment at work.
Experience of violence and harassment at work, by country.
Have you, personally, ever experienced (physical/psychological/sexual) violence and/or harassment at work?