‘Force dads to take more leave’

The Social Democrat women's movement, S-Women, has demanded that fathers be given an extra month of paternity leave if the party wins September's general election. Göran Persson, however, has rejected the idea.

The Prime Minister says the Social Democrat congress had looked at the issue and decided against giving an extra month of leave to fathers.

But Nalin Pekgul, a leading proponent of the idea, said that Persson “knows very well that he can’t just dump the idea. This is the women’s movement’s most important issue and he knows we’re not going to back down.

In Sweden, the state pays parents to take leave when they have a new child. The state pays for 16 months of parental leave, of which two are reserved for each parent, and the rest can be split as both parents see fit.

S-Women now want to increase this number of obligatory months, and want their proposal to be included in the party’s general election manifesto.

The deputy chairwoman of S-Women, Ann Ludvigsson, said the question was “important for equality in family and working life, for the sake of children and for ensuring that women are not discriminated against on the job market.

But Ludvigsson said that legislation was not the solution, and pointed out that the ceiling for parental benefits (the maximum income at which parents are given a percentage of their income while on parental leave), was being raised in July.

Speaking in Västerås on Saturday, Göran Persson said that changes to parental leave were possible, but “we are not going to promise this in the election manifesto, as I see it now.”

“But I’m certain of one thing: introducing quotas within the current sixteen months is not something we’re considering.”

Persson said the proposal lacks support among the young people who take parental benefits.

“We’re now seeing a situation in which more fathers are taking out more parental leave, and I think that’s great.”

Ludvigsson said she doubted that people would oppose an extra month of leave reserved for fathers, despite the fact that surveys say they would.

“We have had parental benefits for 35 years, and still fathers take out only 20 percent of it. Traditions and prejudices are behind this. The idea remains that it is the man that has the career,” she said.