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Shorter parental leave for immigrants: minister

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Shorter parental leave for immigrants: minister
12:51 CEST+02:00
Immigrant parents with young children should have a shorter parental leave when the family moves to Sweden Centre Party's leader and minister for enterprise and energy Maud Olofsson said in an interview with Sveriges Radio (SR).

This controversial suggestion is aimed at helping immigrant women to quickly get a foothold on the job market.

"I think it is a problem when people are unable to become a part of Swedish society," Olofsson said to SR, calling parental leave a "trap" for women.

Olofsson refers to a report published this week by the Expert Group for Public Finances, which showed that parental leave can lead to immigrant women, without connection to the labour market, remaining unemployed.

Statistics have shown that women born outside of Sweden are the group who have most trouble establishing themselves on the Swedish labour market.

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 authors of the report 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.

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.

Equality minister Nyamko Sabuni of the Liberal Party put forward a similar suggestion last year, which was heavily criticised, and the Liberal Party's head Jan Björklund quickly renounced all discrimination of non-Swedish parents.

Integration minister Erik Ullenhag said this week that he wants to take a closer look at the suggestions made in the report before making any comments.

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