Families earn more when dads stay home: study

A new myth-busting review of Sweden's parental leave practices has revealed that men and women divvying up the generous benefits equally do not stand to lose money, despite the general belief to the contrary.

Families earn more when dads stay home: study
A Swedish mother and her children. FIle photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

"We've heard statements without context that splitting parental leave would be more profitable if there were less salary discrepancies," Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) spokesman Niklas Löfgren told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper on Friday. 

About 100,000 couples become parents every year and take out parental leave, the agency's figures showed. Because women still take out more parental leave than their male partners, the agency decided to look at a fictive family where the woman earns 18,617 kronor ($2,852) a month while the man brings home 24,900 kronor ($3,800).

If the man took out only two months, while the mum stayed at home for ten, the family's net income at the end of the year would be a joint 345,057 kronor. If, however, the couple decided to split the parental leave down the middle, the family income would be almost exactly the same, landing on 355,033 kronor – but that's before the "equality bonus" introduced by the conservative government kicks in. The couple sharing parental leave equally can pocket another 12,000 kronor as a reward for taking the same amount of responsibility for the child in its first year. 

"It surprised us," Löfgren told DN. "This is new knowledge about how profitable, in strict financial terms, it is to share parental leave."

How long a parent decides to stay at home can affect their careers, which in the end puts a damper on pensions, experts warned. Labour market economics professor Marianna Sundström told DN that part-time work risks women's financial wellbeing later in life. 

"Women don't keep up in salary progression and they aren't promoted as often as men," she told DN.

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