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Parental leave 'traps' immigrants at home

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09:49 CEST+02:00
Less parental leave for those who have just arrived in Sweden with kids will help getting immigrant women out on the labour market, according to two Swedish experts.

“This report points to a very real problem and may offer part of an explanation of why it takes so long to get out on the labour market,” Minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhaag said to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

According to statistics, ‘women born outside of Sweden' is the group that is finding it the most difficult to establish themselves on the labour market.

In a report to the ministry of finance, scientists Åsa Olli Segendorf and Tommi Teljosuo argue that parental leave traps immigrant women in poverty and is often used as a social benefit for several years, keeping women in the home.

Instead they promote the idea of linking the amount of parental leave allotted when a foreign-born child arrives in Sweden with its age on arrival. That way the older the child is, the shorter the amount of time off would be.

Today, anyone who arrives in Sweden are entitled to 16 months of parental benefit (föräldrapenning) for their child, even if the child is four or five when he or she arrives in Sweden. The basic level of parental leave is 5,400 kronor ($857) tax-free per child per month.

The scientists also want to scrap the childcare allowance (vårdnadsbidraget), a benefit strongly promoted by the Christian Democrats, which provides parents with up to 3,000 kronor tax-free per child per month.

In effect since July 1st, 2008, the childcare allowance is available to parents of children aged one to three years old who forego the option of sending their children to a publicly financed preschool.

Not only do parental leave and the childcare allowance constitute obstacles for women to enter the workforce, but they also hamper older children who could have begun pre-school and started learning Swedish immediately, the authors claim.

Erik Ullenhaag wants to look into the report.

“The basic level of parental benefits is 5,400 kronor per month, which I believe can provide quite a strong incentive to stay at home,” Ullenhaag said to DN.

But not everyone is as positive to this explanation. Party Secretary for the Christian Democrats, Acko Anckarberg, is not impressed by the report.

“They are highlighting family politics as the problem when it really is about not being able to get a job and being shut out of the jobs on the market, “ she said to DN.

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