Swedish fathers already take an average of more than three months off work to look after their new-born children — almost a quarter of the generous 16 months of shared leave to which parents are entitled.
But the slow progress in moving towards even more equal parenting pushed Sweden's government to introduce a bill to bring in the third ‘pappamånad' or ‘Daddy month', which the country's parliament passed by a thin margin in November and comes into effect from New Year's Day.
Under the system, only the father can use the three 'Daddy months', so couples where the father opts not to take time off to look after a new baby will receive three months less paid leave.
“I think it is going to be used, but I am not sure how big the effect will be,” Niklas Löfgren, a spokesman for Försäkringskassan, Sweden's Social Security agency, told TT newswire.
The proportion of leave taken by fathers increased from 11.3 percent in 1999, the year before the second reserved month of paternity leave was introduced, to 18.4 percent in 2004. By 2014, the share had reached 24.9 percent.
Löfgren said he doubted that men would ever taken a completely equal share of leave.
“I believe that the increase will slow down the higher up you go, but we can probably get up to 60-40 through more reforms.”
The bill for the third reserved month was proposed by the ruling Social Democrat and Green coalition, and passed with the support of the opposition Left and Liberal parties.
It was opposed by the Moderates, the Centre Party, and the Sweden Democrats.