Sahlin has indicated that she would be prepared to legislate to ensure that fathers took more paternity leave than the two months currently required by law.
“The question is not whether we are going to share parental leave, but how. There could be more ‘dad months’ in the current system or it might happen when we expand it.
“And then there is the role of the equality bonus,” Sahlin told Expressen, referring to a scheme scheduled to be introduced by the centre-right government on July 1st this year.
The bonus will be part of Sweden’s parental insurance programme, with families who share parental leave equally eligible for tax rebates.
Sahlin praised the plan but said it would be effectively cancelled out by a separate proposal also set to take effect on July 1st offering rebates to families with children aged between 1 and 3 who don’t make use of subsidized childcare.
The Social Democrat leader has herself long been a supporter of higher quotas for dads.
“I don’t think we can get at the statistical discrimination currently experienced by all women of a fertile age in Sweden unless dads also have their foreheads tattooed so that employers can see and realize that this man could also be away, this man could also become a father,” she said.
Sahlin said that there was a growing awareness of the importance of “statistical discrimination” within the ranks of the Social Democrats.
The disproportionate amount of parental leave taken by women affected them for the rest of their lives, she said. Together with the party’s women’s organization, S-kvinnorna, Sahlin said she would raise the issue again at the Social Democrats’ 2009 congress.
At the party’s 2005 congress, Sahlin’s predecessor Göran Persson scotched the controversial idea of “individualization”, which would have required mothers and fathers to split parental leave down the middle.
The parents of each child born in Sweden are entitled to 480 days parental leave. While sixty days are reserved for each parent, the rest of the time can in theory be divided as families see fit.