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Papers push back on papa payments

David Landes · 29 Feb 2008, 14:58

Published: 29 Feb 2008 14:58 GMT+01:00

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Two of Sweden's major dailies sent the Moderate Party to bed without supper for their suggested extension of the “gender equity bonus” (jämställdhetsbonus).

As The Local reported earlier this week, families who share parental leave equally will be eligible for tax rebates starting July 1st.

But the Moderate's proposal to apply similar incentives to the state-financed insurance programme which replaces income for parents who stay home to care for sick children was met by strong criticism from two of Sweden’s major dailies.

Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) compares the move to unnecessary “social engineering” and admonishes the Moderates for undue meddling in decisions about how families divide their household responsibilities.

“Citizens are fully capable of deciding what’s best for them on their own,” it writes.

The paper also attacks the proposal as counter to the government’s own pro-employment policies and an affront to both men and women who are striving to participate fully in the workforce.

In addition, the paper openly questions whether Swedish taxpayers would tolerate the measure.

“Citizens already pay inappropriately high taxes with impressive levels of tolerance because they expect basic services tailored to their needs, and not to be lectured by some 'gender equality police' who disapprove of their family’s make up,” writes SvD.

Finally, SvD accuses the Moderates of overestimating the problem in the first place. It cites statistics from Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency (Forsäkringskassan) showing women currently take out 64 percent of insurance to cover wages when caring for a sick child. The paper feels that a 60/40 split would be “reasonably” equal, and thus wonders why the Moderates are making such a fuss over four percentage points.

“Is it for these measly four percentage points that the Moderates want to implement new laws and rules, lecture honest families, spend hard earned tax money, and add the cost of abandoning their employment policy to the bill?” asks the paper.

Echoing the sentiments of SvD about the role of the state, Sydsvenskan also criticizes the proposal for ignoring the principle that the state ought to concern itself with the rights of individual, rather than the collective.

“Neither pensions nor other social insurance programmes can be transferred to other members of the family. A neutral and consistent arrangement ought to appeal to those who, at least historically, have shunned the state’s interference in people’s lives,” it writes.

The paper does admit that women’s lower representation in the Swedish workforce is “a problem for society,” but is concerned that the additional complications associated with the Moderates proposal will undermine its effectiveness.

The paper cites the difficulties already being encountered with a separate proposal also set to take effect on July 1st offering rebated to families with children aged between 1 and 3 who don’t make use of subsidized childcare.

“Both the National Tax Board and couples living together are going to be tearing their hair out after the summer’s rule changes,” writes the paper.

Rather than having a complicated system of measures to try to equalize the degree to which men and women participate in raising their children, Sydsvenksan suggests what it considers a more streamlined solution: individual parental income replacement insurance which would “lead to a gender equality bonus in the true sense of the term.”

Where the main newspapers stand

Dagens Nyheter, "independently liberal", Stockholm-based, owned by the Bonnier family.

Svenska Dagbladet, "independently liberal-conservative",

Stockholm-based, owned by Norwegian media company Schibsted.

Story continues below…

Göteborgs-Posten, "independently liberal",

Gothenburg-based, owned by the Stampen media group.

Sydsvenska Dagbladet (Sydsvenskan), "independently liberal", Malmö-based, owned by the Bonnier family.

Aftonbladet, "independently Social Democrat", Stockholm-based, owned by trade union federation LO and Norwegian media company Schibsted.

Expressen, "independently liberal", Stockholm-based, owned by the Bonnier family.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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