Government offers money for stay-at-home parents

Parents who want to stay at home to look after their young children will be entitled to extra money from their local councils, under new proposals unveiled by the government on Tuesday.

The money will be offered to parents with children aged between 1 and 3 who do not make use of subsidized childcare. The manifesto proposed either a taxed benefit of up to 4,000 kronor per month or an untaxed benefit of up to 3,000 kronor per month. Parents receiving the benefit will not have to stop working entirely.

According to the proposals, which are based on policies presented in the governing Alliance’s election manifesto, local authorities will be allowed to choose for themselves whether to introduce the new childcare benefit.

Social Affairs Minister and Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund told a press conference on Tuesday that he did not know how many municipalities would adopt the measure, and said he could not even guarantee that all Alliance-led councils would do so.

“But I will be disappointed if they don’t,” he said.

The Social Democrats are critical of the proposals, comparing them to similar measures taken in Norway.

“If this resembles the Norwegian model, we know that it is no good for single mothers, as it is not enough to live on,” said Tobias Eneroth, Social Democrat deputy chairman of the Riksdag’s social insurance committee.

“We also know that it leads to those children who most need to go to nursery school are withdrawn, as it is mainly immigrant women in housing projects who took the benefits.”

Göran Hägglund, whose Christian Democrat Party pushed for the policy, dismissed criticism that the benefit would disadvantage women.

“People have been saying this for years, but I think that adults can decide for themselves,” he said. He added that the 3,000 kronor on offer was “not an astronomical sum.”

“People will still have to make a financial sacrifice to be able to stay at home,” he said.

The government also unveiled formal proposals for an equality bonus for people who take parental leave. The bonus, in the form of a 3,000 kronor per month tax reduction, will be paid to the lower-earning member of a couple when he or she returns to work.

The idea is that the bonus will encourage couples to share parental leave more equally, by making it financially more feasible for fathers to take time off. The bonus has been estimated to cost 1.2 billion kronor a year. Nyamko Sabuni said the money would be a “great step” in ensuring that mothers and fathers take equal shares of parental leave.