A Swedish father working hard during his parental leave. Photo: Kristin Lidell/Image Bank Sweden
So much for Sweden being the most gender equal country in the world: An analysis provided by the Sweden's Försäkringskassan agency found that 23 percent of fathers of children born in 2012 did not collect any paternity leave at all for the first two years of their child’s life.
“Precisely as the numbers show, some Dads wait until the child is a little older. Then what we see is that the fathers take a larger share in connection with the summer months, Christmas and New Year,” Niklas Löfgren, the family economics spokesman for the agency, told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT.
Sweden's system of parental leave is among the most generous in the world, with couples receiving 480 days of parental leave per child, most of which they can share as they see fit. For 390 of the days, parents are entitled to nearly 80 per cent of their normal pay up to a maximum monthly income of 37,000 kroner ($4,500).
But the surprising statistics on the number of dad's who don't make the most of the system seem to support the Swedish government's decision to increase the number of months’ parental leave which can only be taken by fathers.
From January 1st 2016, the number of use-it-or-lose-it 'pappamånad' or 'daddy months' will increase from two to three, in an bid to push couples to share early years childcare more equally.
Löfgren said that the statistics disproved the common assumption that men generally decided not to take parental leave because they were the main breadwinners.
“Sex comes before pay, put simply,” he said. “Attitudes, values and norms remain for a long time. Often families say that they can’t afford to share more equally. But in those cases when the woman earns more, the man still opts not to take up his days."
According to the agency, the vast majority of fathers who took no leave to look after their babies were in lower rather than higher income brackets.
Two thirds of fathers who earned below 142,000 Swedish kroner ($17,000) took no leave during the first two years of their child’s life, while one in three of those earning between 142,000 kroner and 282,000 ($33,668) took no leave.
Ethnic background also played a role, with four out of ten foreign-born fathers with children born in 2012 choosing to take no leave for the first two years.
Even among foreign-born Swedes, however, the percentage of leave taken by men increased among those in higher income brackets.