• Sweden edition
 
Hundreds of great job opportunities for foreign professionals at Sweden's top employers - in cooperation with Monster, Experteer, Stepstone, and CareerBuilder.
What
Where
736
jobs available
Find English-speaking professionals with The Local.
Advertise a vacancy
Swedish dads steer clear of paternity leave

Swedish dads steer clear of paternity leave

Published: 12 Mar 2008 07:08 CET

Fathers take on average only 20 percent of the 16 months of paid parental leave offered in Sweden to either mums or dads, according to Statistics Swede—a skimpy average that has sparked a broad debate over how to encourage more fathers to take the paid time off and reduce inequalities in the home.

In most cases it is mothers who invoke their legal right and stay home with the kids.

"You have to ask yourself what it is that pushes most women to stay at home, and one of the reasons is that the person who earns the most is often the one who is going to stay at work," Sweden's Gender Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni told AFP.

Women are over-represented in low-income jobs, such as teachers or nurses, and on average earn 84 percent of the average male salary, according to Statistics Sweden.

Charlotte Northman-Alm and Carl-Johan Alm are parents of two children aged seven and five.

Like many other couples, their professional and financial situation has prevented them from sharing the parental leave equally.

Carl-Johan runs his own architecture firm and was only able to stay home with his kids for 10 days each, both times just after the kids were born.

As a result Charlotte, a schoolteacher whose salary is significantly lower than her husband's, ended up taking the rest of the parental leave because of economic considerations, even though the couple were aware of how important it is for a father to bond with his child in the early stages of life.

"We were worried about the problems he would encounter, in terms of signing new clients, if he were to go back to work after being absent for a year," Charlotte said.

Carl-Johan often works from home and enjoys being close at hand as his children grow up, but he admitted that "it would obviously have been more fun to spend more time with them in the beginning."

Attitudes have also shifted in the past decade or so, making it easier for fathers to take several months off work to care for their children without being met by angry stares from their bosses.

In Sweden it is now a common sight to see daddies pushing strollers on the street, giving babies bottles in crowded cafes or meeting up for playtime in the park with their toddlers.

Paid parental leave is currently 16 months, in addition to 10 paid days off right at the birth. Parents who stay home with their children receive 80 percent of their gross salary, with a ceiling of 307,500 kronor ($50,000) for 2008.

Fathers in the Scandinavian country have been entitled to take paid parental leave since 1974. In 1995 the system was adapted to reserve a month of the leave specifically for fathers, weeks that could not be transferred to the mother. If they did not take their month, they lost it.

In 2002, the system was changed again, and now two months of the leave are reserved for each parent and are non-transferrable. The remaining 12 months can be divided as couples wish—and that is one of the main criticisms of the system in the current debate.

"We can see that the father often transfers his days to the mother," the ombudsman for gender equality, Anne-Marie Bergström, said.

"It's a question of values and behavior," she explained.

One of the most hotly-contested proposals being tossed around in the debate is that of an entirely individualized parental leave, one where each parent must take their days or lose them, without the possibility of transferring them to their partner.

Bergström is in favor of the idea, saying it would promote more equality between men and women.

But Gender Equality Minister Sabuni said that was not the way to go.

"Some say we should legislate, others say introduce quotas ... but as a liberal, I want parents to be free to choose how they want to share" their parental leave, she said.

Opponents of an individualized leave often cite fears of a state that interferes with families' private lives.

And Charlotte agreed.

"I think each person should be able to decide on their own," she said.

Facts

Parental leave is time a mother or father can take off work in order to be with a young child, either paid or unpaid.

Provisions for parental leave vary enormously from country to country, and even where they exist they do not always cover all employees.

Here is the state of play in selected countries:

- European Union (recommended minimum under EU Social Charter): At least three months per employee, available up until a child's eighth birthday. Payment left to the discretion of member states; partners may each claim the entitlement, but not at the same time.

- Sweden: 16 months on 80 percent of salary, until child reaches eight years old. Can be shared between father and mother, with an incentive specifying at least two months for father. Similar systems exist in the other Nordic countries.

- Germany: 12 months, up until age of three. Paid 67 percent of salary, to a limit of 1,800 euros (2,730 dollars) a month; incentive for fathers to take at least two months.

- France: 12 months, renewable twice up to child's third birthday. Some parents can claim a basic monthly allowance, currently €536 ($815) per month. No incentive for fathers.

- Britain: Up to 13 weeks of unpaid leave, but no more than four weeks in any given year. No incentive for fathers.

- Switzerland: No parental leave at all.

- Australia: Up to 12 months unpaid, which can be shared between father and mother, but no incentive for fathers.

- Japan: One year, up to child's first birthday. Available to both mothers and fathers, but generally unpaid and often at discretion of employer. No incentive for fathers.

- United States: A federal law provides for up to 12 weeks a year, unpaid, to look after a newborn child or meet certain other family contingencies. Only applies to firms employing over 50 people, and companies can claim exemptions. Both parents can claim, but no incentive for fathers.

Sources: Council of Europe, OECD, national governments.


Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article:

The comments below have not been moderated in advance and are not produced by The Local unless clearly stated. Readers are responsible for the content of their own comments. Comments that breach our terms and conditions will be removed.

ADD YOUR COMMENT   (YOU MUST LOG IN OR REGISTER TO MAKE A COMMENT)
Your Swedish Career
When Matthew Volsky first came to Sweden he didn't think he would stick around. Six years and a pioneering invention later he tells The Local about the medical device which is helping save lives around the world.
Jenna Iwanchuk had never visited Europe, let alone Sweden, before she moved from Canada to Gothenburg two years ago, she tells The Local. Now she runs a local pet shop ably assisted by her dog, Tindra.
US expat Faith George tells The Local about how she mastered the Swedish language, seeing the positives in being made redundant, and how she plans to show Swedes another side of the United States.
What does an eccentric Swedish farmer have in common with an Australian paleontologist? No, it's not a Ross from Friends joke, it's about a petrified fern and a career in scientific research in Sweden.
After six years studying medicine in Russia, Mumbai-born doctor Sandeep Jha chose Sweden over India for his career. He tells The Local about the chance encounter that lead him to the hidden beauty of cardiology.
US micro brewer Kevin Zelnio talks about the importance of Swedish contacts, how Swedes are Europe's most progressive beer makers, and how brewing beer in the Swedish forest makes him feel like Walter White from Breaking Bad.
Swedish Employment News
Sweden last year attracted more talent than it lost, with engineers topping the table of immigrants. In Europe, the biggest influx of professionals was to Germany, but a Middle Eastern country outperformed all surveyed markets.
"We have to hit the brakes and the gas at the same time." Does your Swedish boss confuse you? You're not alone. Swedes have crowned that phrase as the worst workplace cliché of the year.
What does an eccentric Swedish farmer have in common with an Australian paleontologist? No, it's not a Ross from Friends joke, it's about a petrified fern and a career in scientific research in Sweden.
Municipal staff in Gothenburg will act as guinea pigs in a proposed push for six-hour workdays with full pay, with hopes that it will cut down on sick leave, boost efficiency, and ultimately save Sweden money.
Are you looking for a job in Sweden but having trouble with your CV? Here are the Swedish words you should avoid, courtesy of LinkedIn's annual list of "overrated" buzzwords.
A new survey looking at how Swedes feel about their job has put one profession far down on the bottom rung of well-being in the workplace.

THG is hiring for the Stockholm office!
THG is looking for International Sports Sales Executives to sell their VIP hospitality facilities at major sports events.
FULL JOB AD »

International Sales - Stockholm based
Marcus Evans is looking for International Sales Executives
FULL JOB AD »

Adecco
Göteborg
Careerbuilder
Added 07/31/14

King
Malmö, SKÅ
Monster
Added 07/31/14

Barilla Sverige AB
Stockholm, STHM
Monster
Added 07/31/14

Poolia
Göteborg, VTG
Monster
Added 07/31/14

Agilent
Stockholm, STHM
Monster
Added 07/31/14

QlikTech International AB
Lund, SKÅ
Monster
Added 07/31/14

CIKLUM UK LIMITED
stockholm, STHM
Monster
Added 07/31/14

C-Rad AB
Uppsala, UPP
Monster
Added 07/31/14

Harvey Nash
,
Monster
Added 07/31/14

DataCore Software GmbH
Sweden,
Monster
Added 07/31/14