Few divide parental leave equally

Paul O'Mahony
Paul O'Mahony - [email protected]

Only 2.6 per cent of Swedish parents spend an equal amount of time at home with their young children, Svenska Dagbladet reports.


It is over three decades since Sweden introduced its parental insurance system.

A central aim of the system was to get mothers and fathers to spend equal amounts of time at home with their young children, thereby ensuring a swifter return to the workplace for women.

Now, for the first time, the Swedish Social Insurance Administration has looked at the extent to which parents have lived up to the goals set by the nation's politicians. It found that, at the current rate of development, it will take a further three decades before the aim of complete equality is achieved.

A surprised Niklas Löfgren, who analysed the insurance data, told Svenska Dagbladet that he did not expect the figure to be anywhere near as low as 2.6 per cent.

"I thought there would have been a lot more. We didn't check whether they had taken exactly the same amount.

“Instead we looked at the number of mums and dads who took out 40 to 60 per cent of the available days.

“We believe that parents will end up somewhere within this range if they try to adapt their lives so as to assume shared responsibility for a child," said Löfgren.

Several politicians have called for the introduction of a quota system to aid the Social Insurance Administration in its task of ensuring a more equitable division.

This proposal, dubbed "individualisation", has the support of the Equality Ombudsman but was sidelined by the main party leaders ahead of September's general election.

What individualisation entails is that mothers and fathers would be forced to split parental leave down the middle.

The new government's equality minister, Nyamko Sabuni, has vowed not to introduce parental quotas. Instead an "equality bonus" will be paid out to parents who spend equal amounts of time at home with their children.

"All reforms that stimulate men and women to divide equally will lead to an improvement. It is not possible to predict the pace of improvements until the reforms have had time to take effect.

"But if things are moving along too slowly we will have to take another look at it," Sabuni told Svenska Dagbladet.


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