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Sweden alters parental leave benefit rules

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Sweden alters parental leave benefit rules
11:53 CEST+02:00
The government wants to alter Sweden's system of parental leave benefits in an effort to get more immigrant women into the workforce.

Among the changes is a proposal to limit the number of days for which parents can claim benefits after a child's fourth birthday.

In addition, the government wants to raise the benefit levels paid to parents with the lowest or no incomes.

According to social affairs minister Göran Hägglund, the changes are part of an effort by the government to encourage immigrant mothers to enter the job market.

Sweden's current system of parental leave gives parents 480 days of paid leave per child.

"There are many who come to our country and have several children. They then received parental leave benefits for all of the days that most people in Sweden have already used," Hägglund told Sveriges Television (SVT).

The benefits can be claimed at any time up until a child's eighth birthday and include incentives to encourage parents with joint custody to share the days equally.

According to the proposed changes, however, only 20 percent of the days – 95 days – could be used after a child's fourth birthday.

"If you have several children, someone can be at home for several years without having any connection to the job market, so to speak, and that becomes a problem for many who come in late," Hägglund told SVT.

The current system also allows parents to claim benefits for 390 days at the equivalent to 80 percent of salary, up to a ceiling of 910 kronor ($138) per day.

The remaining 90 days, however, are paid out at a basic level of 180 kronor per day.

However, if parents don't have any registered income, either because they are unemployed or because their children were born outside of Sweden, benefits are capped at 180 kronor per day for the entire parental leave period.

Following the proposed changes, however, this minimum parental leave benefit level will be raised to 225 kronor per day, or the equivalent of 6,750 kronor per month, starting in January 1st, 2013.

Last year, 66,000 parents received leave benefits at the basic level, according to SVT.

"We think it's important to raise benefits at that leave; it's more important than raising the ceiling," said Hägglund.

The government also wants to change rules to allow parents to take out parental leave benefits in connection with school vacations up until children turn 12, rather than having benefits expire after a child's eighth birthday.

Sweden's system of parental leave has garnered a great deal of attention abroad for helping women achieve a better work-life balance, and for encouraging fathers to stay home with young children.

A recent report issued by the International Council on Women's Business Leadership, an international advisory body under the wing of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, held up the Swedish model of parental leave as worth of emulation elsewhere.

The Local/dl

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