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Number crunching at the parental leave precipice

Joel Sherwood · 16 Jul 2009, 15:55

Published: 16 Jul 2009 15:55 GMT+02:00

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Coming to grips with the vast parental leave package here in Sweden was a multi-phased process, with amazement and delight over the number of days on offer replaced by unease over the number of days on offer.

The initial phase was something like awe. It’s a whopping 480 days new parents are allotted to slice up between them mostly as they choose.

Though I knew benefits were served in generous portions in Sweden, I was still impressively surprised when I saw the exact figure.

But a suspicion phase came soon after. Ahead of studying up on the issue, I was aware that not all parental days are created equal. Some are compensated with income approaching work salary levels, while others are paid a sum nearer to nothing.

So just how many days were of the higher-income variety? More than four-fifths, or 390 days, it turns out. That looks high too, I decided.

A number-crunching period came next. How many weeks and months does it all work out to? How much income can you expect?

To hit the highest intake level - around 80 percent of salaries up to a certain cut-off point - you need to claim seven days of leave per week.

Unlike, say, vacation days at work, where five days gets you a whole week away at full pay.

But there's no requirement to go for the highest income possible. If you're OK with sacrificing some remuneration, you can use only five days per week, as at work, and extend your at-home period.

More number games. How long do you get if you use five top-pay days week? Answer: 1.5 years.

A grateful phase set in. Almost no matter how you figured, the result always looked gracious.

Additional details only strengthened a sense of fortune. The days are dissectible and have long expiration dates. You can split them into halves, quarters or eighths, and save them for years.

To top it off, you earn vacation days while on leave. Quite a model.

But it soon set in that big numbers can be daunting, and a mood of giddiness over the available time off gave way to anxiety over what lies ahead.

Story continues below…

It's not time off, after all, is it? Doesn't parenthood wear me out almost as much as it thrills me? Splitting the leave pretty evenly, as we plan to do, means I’ll have a bunch of months of constant and often solo baby duty.

The final phase, where I currently hover as my tour of duty approaches, is uncertainty.

Can I really do this? What's it going to be like? Am I going to make it through? Isn't it an awful lot of parental leave days they give you here?

Joel Sherwood (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:17 July 17, 2009 by Loonyman
If my experiance is anything to go by, the time will fly by, you will be so busy your feet will not touch the floor, and both happy and sad to return to work when the child starts Dagis.....

The the second baby comes, the first child has there Dagis hours slashed so you have a baby and a toddler to keep amused for most of the week, and you wonder "What the hell kept me so busy the first time!?!"

But anyways, its all wonderful... Enjoy :-)
16:42 July 17, 2009 by James Read
I do wonder how this all gets paid for.

I know that taxes are super high here and that the Swedish state also gets the bonus income of nice company taxes on profits from their large iron ore deposits and timber industries. However since things got tough about 12 months ago jobs across the nation have been slashed meaning less taxes and less spending so overall a smaller tax base, the auto industry is heading towards complete extinction meaning fewer exports and less foreign capital flowing in as well as the collapse of employment across entire towns and huge increases in unemployment benefits. The mineral resources bubble has also popped meaning that less foreign money is flowing into the state coffers. All this must mean that Sweden is surely much less wealthy that it was 12 or 24 months ago.
08:19 July 19, 2009 by skane refugee
IMHO the financial generosity of this parental leave issue in Sweden is grossly exagerrated ... especially for relatively high earners ...

the amount paid out is capped at a relatively low level (by London standards say) and is taxed ...

we worked out that my ex was paid more than '2 babies worth' of max Swedish mammaledig (after tax) by her employer in London for our firstborn during 4 months of paid parental leave under her contract ...

she then freely negotiated additional unpaid leave and came back on a jobshare basis ...

in countries with a functional job market, new parents are free to take leave or flex working hours by negotiation with employers

... the real benefit to Swedish parents is that their job has to be kept open for them for an extended period ... but this causes major disruption to Swedish employers (especially smaller businesses) ...

... at least covering for 'mamma and pappa ledig' staff provides work experience for struggling expats :-)
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