The study was published by the Malmö University, with researcher Lars Plantin pointing the finger at Swedish employers as the cause of the higher levels of stress among Swedish parents.
“We found that even though Sweden has got maximum support for working parents and their families, Swedish employers are lacking when it comes to giving more personal support,” he told The Local.
“The employers are all referring back to the right to parental leave or the right to have children in day care, but in other European countries like Britain or the Netherlands, the employers are quite good at giving out much more personal support – you can get the possibility to have more days vacation, the possibility to break down the week by working through lunch breaks. In some cases you can almost work four days and get paid for five.”
The study, which was based on statistics, a series of interviews, and a well-being questionnaire sent to parents in eight European countries, concluded that both Sweden’s approach to parental leave and Europe’s approach to parental rights need to meet somewhere halfway.
“You could say in Scandinavia we need to be more individualized with our support, while the EU needs to guarantee more general rights,” Plantin summarized.
A large part of the problem in Sweden is the lack of temporary substitute workers. Plantin explained that many employers choose to simply enlist other members of staff to fill in for a parent on leave, or to let the work pile up.
Swedes, as a result, worry over the fact that their colleagues are carrying their workload, or that they will return to their desks with mountains of backlog to sort through.
Parents choosing to take part-time leave often complicate matters for employers, who can elect to leave the position unmanned rather than filling in the gaps. The situation is like a trap, according to Plantin, who said finding a temporary replacement is not as simple as it was 20 years ago.
The researcher concluded that there is “absolutely” a problem with the current Swedish model, which allows 16 months off per child.
“The system, in general, is good but its not the perfect solution. The state offers support but we need more personal support, more individualized support, if we want to see parents less stressed,” he told The Local.