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Sweden's childcare allowance 'a fiasco'

Sweden's childcare allowance 'a fiasco'

Published: 10 Jan 2011 11:43 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Jan 2011 11:43 GMT+01:00

Sweden's childcare allowance, strongly promoted by the Christian Democrats as a way to help parents who wish to spend more time at home with their young children, has been a fiasco, according to a previously unreleased report.

Barely 2 percent of parents who have the right to take advantage of the programme actually did so in the first half of 2009, a government-ordered study from Statistics Sweden (SCB) shows.

"We're not satisfied with the results," Martin Kits, a spokesperson for Christian Democratic head Göran Hägglund, told The Local on Monday.

The study, first made public by the Feministiskt perspektiv news website, was ordered in October 2010 by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs headed by Hägglund.

Kits insisted the report wasn't purposefully kept secret, telling explaining that government agencies are responsible for publishing their own studies.

He also downplayed the study's results, which show that about 3,000 families took advantage of the programme, explaining they are based on figures from 2009.

"And there are indications that participation in the programme increased in 2010," he said.

The idea behind the childcare allowance (vårdnadsbidraget), which provides parents with up to 3,000 kronor ($430) tax-free per child per month, is to give families the ability to stay at home a little longer with their young children once their parental leave benefits have been used up.

In effect since July 1st, 2008, the childcare allowance is available to parents of children aged one to three years old who forego the option of sending their children to a publicly financed preschool.

Parents are allowed to continue working, but the benefit can't be combined with traditional parental leave payments, unemployment insurance benefits, or other forms of economic support.

The programme, currently made available on a voluntary basis in 104 of Sweden's 290 municipalities, has long courted controversy, with critics arguing that it was a tool to keep women in traditional childrearing roles.

According to Kits, the government ordered the study to see how many of Sweden’s municipalities offered the childcare allowance as part of tracking how the reform had been implemented.

Sweden's main teachers union, Lärarförbundet, has previously warned that the programme would likely lead to increased segregation by allowing unemployed immigrant parents and their children to isolate themselves at home, rather than engage with different aspects of Swedish society.

Despite the programme's low participation rate, the Christian Democrats remain committed to giving Swedish parents more childcare options.

"The childcare allowance is one of many possible ways to give families the freedom to arrange their childcare needs in a way that best suits their situation," said Kits.

He argued that few families take advantage of the childcare allowance because of restrictions in its current formulation.

"The results aren't that surprising. For many families, it's simply not realistic," he said.

The Christian Democrats have long advocated for a doubling of the benefits ceiling to 6,000 kronor per month, arguing doing so would make the childcare allowance more attractive.

In addition, the party wants to require municipalities to offer the childcare allowance, rather than allowing it to remain voluntary.

"I'm convinced [participation] would improve," said Kits.

While Christian Democrat MP Désirée Pethrus believes in the concept behind the childcare allowance, she admitted that it hasn't developed in the way she had hoped.

"The childcare allowance is good, but unfortunately the SCB study shows that it is for the most part only women who use it," she told Feministiskt perspektiv, adding she would prefer to see an extension of Sweden's current parental leave benefits.

Ulrika Hagström, a gender equity expert with the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO), a white-collar trade union, told DN that the childcare allowance ought to be scrapped.

"When interest is as low as the SCB study shows, it's evidence that we're happy with (state-subsidised) daycare and the current two-parent model of childcare," she said.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:20 January 10, 2011 by zooeden
want participation??? raise the bar from 3grand to 8 and then we all daddies and mommies will reconsider :p
15:36 January 10, 2011 by karex
zooeden I agree. It's not enough to compensate for loss of work hours. If people are not allowed to use the dagis and have the benefit, this means that in practice each parent would lose half a work day. They couldn't afford it in most cases I would suppose.
17:22 January 10, 2011 by Great Scott
This 2% or 3000 depending on how you like to put it, is the number of parents who don't have to work. Their partner provides a large enough income to support the family, meaning yet another way for the better off to get even more money. This is yet again another capitalist fiasco.

P.S. Why is it not possible to debate the memory tax fiasco also?

I just love Sweden, there is always something stupid to laugh at.
20:07 January 10, 2011 by Tanskalainen
What do the Sweden Democrats think about this? (I'm curious)
21:01 January 10, 2011 by GLO
Raise the fund ,I will move to Sweden and start making more kids. Why work !!!
22:19 January 10, 2011 by Donut
That 3000 kr a month buys us some nice meals out. But sure, raising it to 6000 kr would be better :-)
00:22 January 11, 2011 by Swedesmith
Making kids is work...if you do it right.
01:23 January 13, 2011 by einsteins monkey
Why isn't there a tax break or alternative benefits for couples who don't have children? I've met several couples who've decided to leave Sweden because they feel the high taxes unproportionally favor couples who have children.
15:54 January 14, 2011 by MarshaLynn
From the article: "The childcare allowance is good, but unfortunately the SCB study shows that it is for the most part only women who use it,"

Shock! Surprise! Women stay at home with their children, and the men go off to hunt to bring back food to the lair! Wow, what an amazing discovery that this is still happening! Will suprises never cease!

Listen, folks, we are products of biology. Women have PMS and children because of biology. Men go off to hunt, ... er, I mean, go to the office to work... because of testosterone. I know we have a Western society that wants to drain men of testerone and pump women full of it, but really that's just grotesque. We (not me, actually)think it's ok to dump kids in daycare while mommy goes off to work, so baby is with strangers all day long. And then do we wonder why baby grows up to have attachment issues? Please don't tell me that although you were dumped in daycare, you don't have attachment issues; because after half a century of this practice, I seriously doubt anyone would recognize their attachment issues. Such issues would seem like the norm. And for the same reason, there are two entire generations who don't have a clue what they've lost or why things aren't working so smoothly or why society is falling apart.
17:13 January 14, 2011 by tadchem
Sounds like Sweden needs to work on what the US 'tea partiers' are working on - circumscribing the limits to governmental authority and responsibility. Ask yourself, "Is it really a responsibility of the government to act (at taxpayer expense!) to give some parents money and ask them to spend a little more time with their children?"
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