Sweden's generous welfare politics include paying out up to 80 percent of a salary to mums and dads who stay at home to care for their children if they are ill. It is called ‘VAB', which stands for ‘vård av barn' (care of children), and famously even exists as a verb, ‘to vabba'.
But according to a spot-check investigation by the Social Insurance Agency last year – the agency in charge of managing VAB payouts – almost 900 million kronor was paid out to parents in error.
This includes everything from parents who intentionally cheat the system by for example claiming benefits for staying at home from work with their sick child while cashing in on their usual salary at the same time (it's supposed to be one or the other), to parents who did not understand the rules.
“It could be everything from a few minutes of working hours, such as not knowing how long your lunch break is, to very much conscious mistakes such as asking for VAB and going to work, which is fraud,” Alexandra Wallin, head of the Social Insurance Agency's family section, told newswire TT.
But the number of suspected instances of fraud is also growing. The agency reported 1,054 cases of parents wrongfully claiming VAB payouts to the police in 2016 compared to just 138 in 2012.
The agency claimed back more than 86 million kronor from parents in 2016, up from 7 million in 2012.
A big part of the increase is however due to the agency stepping up its own work to track down and crack down on suspected wrongful VAB payouts, using both systematic controls and randomized checks.
WORKING PARENTS: How VAB works and what to do when your child is sick