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Child benefit "discriminates against fathers"

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20:48 CET+01:00
Fathers in Sweden are discriminated against while mothers cash in on child benefit says Berit Andnor, Swedish Minister for Social Affairs. And now it's high time to rewrite the rules.

As reported in Thursday's newspapers, Andnor has asked the Swedish Social Insurance Office (Försäkringskassan) to investigate a change in the child benefit system and a report is expected in March this year.

"It's important that all legislation is equal between the sexes," she told Swedish news agency TT. "It's a matter of principle."

Sweden's child benefit legislation dates from 1947 at a time when, according to Andnor, "one assumed that women should be at home taking care of the children".

Since then, Swedish mothers have been able to pocket the monthly sum - which now stands at 950 crowns per child - until the child's 16th birthday.

"We are of the opinion that both parents should take responsibility for their children," said Andnor.

But the child benefit issue becomes problematic when parents decide to separate.

The matter was brought to the attention of the Swedish press this week by singer Wille Crafoord. In a column in Expressen on Tuesday, the twice-divorced father of two argued that he should receive an equal share of the family's child benefit entitlement - particularly since the children's mother earns more than he does.

"It has ALWAYS been like this - and unfortunately it will be a while before the stinking remains of the male society are completely cleaned away," he said, adding some colour to the debate.

"Partly because men, for some bizarre chivalrous (patronising?) reason don't want to muck about with hundred crown notes. Partly because women quite simply love money."

That may be one problem. But Berit Andnor pointed out that while she is in favour of equalising the system, she is aware of the difficulties involved.

"After a separation there are many children who don't see their fathers at all. So it's unreasonable that those who do not have any contact with their children get half of the child benefit," she said.

"And in cases where parents have joint custody it does not necessarily follow that they share the care of the child equally."

However, it is possible to notify the Social Insurance office that the benefit should be paid out to the father in such cases where the father has custody of a child after separation or divorce.

In a bid to make Swedish family affairs fair, Andnor says she will wait for the conclusions of the Social Insurance Office inquiry before proposing new legislation.

Sources: Expressen, TT, Svenska Dagbladet

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