Why a Swedish MEP took her baby to vote in parliament (and went viral)

Why a Swedish MEP took her baby to vote in parliament (and went viral)
Swedish MEP Jytte Guteland in Strasbourg. Photo: Julie Ward
An image of a Swedish MEP taking her baby to a vote at the European Parliament has gone viral, but the politician has told The Local that her place of work needs to be more child friendly.

The picture of Jytte Guteland raising her hand to vote in Strasbourg while her son sits holding a giraffe toy on the desk in front of her has been shared hundreds of times on Twitter since it was first released on Wednesday.

The Social Democrat MEP is well aware of the attention being given to the image, but explained to The Local that there is something bigger behind it.

“Yes, I saw it. It's common to have kids at work, but quite uncommon for them to come along and vote. But there is no parental leave for us MEPs,” Guteland said.

While they can be excused from parliament for a period of six months after the birth of a child, MEPs are currently not entitled to official parental leave. One consequence of that is that they cannot be substituted by another MEP during votes and are obliged to vote in person if they want to carry out that duty.

“I want parents to be able to have parental leave regardless of their job or assignment. I think we should also be child-friendly so that a baby can come along when it’s possible,” the MEP noted.

In Sweden, by contrast, parents are offered a generous 480 days parental leave per child which can be shared between parents. 

As for what her son thinks about Strasbourg, Guteland joked that “he speaks a bit loudly sometimes, but he likes the parliament”.