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Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave: What you need to know

Sweden's parental leave policy is generous enough to have earned media coverage around the world, and for many families it's a factor in choosing to live in the Nordic nation. But the specific terms, and the process for applying for benefits, can be tough to get to grips with.

Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave: What you need to know
Sweden's generous family leave policies allow for plenty of time with your child. So how do they work? Photo: Simon Paulin/

As a parent in Sweden, you’re entitled both to time off work to care for your child (parental leave or föräldraledighet) and money to help cover the costs of child-raising. The benefits are paid out not by your employer but by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan), which you need to register with and apply to in order to receive the payments.

Who is eligible for parental benefits?

If you have a young child in Sweden, you’re likely to be eligible. Parental benefit applies to those who are the parent of a child, or have custody of the child. It can also apply to people who live with a parent, in certain cases (such as if they are married or a registered partner, sambo, of the child’s parent).

As well as that, you need to be insured in Sweden (this is usually the case for anyone living or working in the country) and taking time off work, study or job-seeking to stay with a child (who must live in Sweden, an EEA country, or Switzerland).

How much time can I take?

The basic allowance for paid leave is 480 days of parental leave per child, so parents sharing custody will split that number and parents with sole custody have the full 480. Parents with multiple children, ie twins or triplets, get an increased allowance: a total of 660 days for twins and 840 for triplets.

But you don’t need to take each allotted day as a full day. Parents also have the option of reducing their working hours by three quarters, a half, one quarter or one eighth, and receiving proportional parental benefit for the time not worked. And parents of a child under the age of eight can reduce their working hours by up to 25 percent, whether or not they decide to take parental benefit for the remaining 25 percent.

Parental leave can be split into up to three separate periods per year, and sometimes more if that’s agreed with the employer.

The basic allowance is 480 days per child. Photo: Maskot/Folio/

How do we share the leave?

The starting point is that both parents have an equal share of the leave: 240 days each. Each parent can transfer part of their leave to the other parent if they wish. For single parents with sole custody, the entire 480-day allowance goes to them.

For children born in 2016 or later to parents sharing custody, each parent has 90 days (of income-based, rather than basic, benefit) reserved for them individually. That doesn’t mean you have to take them, but you cannot transfer those days to the other parent so they will be lost if you choose not to. The division is different if your child was born earlier; in that case, find out what applies to you here.

When can I take the leave?

The pregnant parent can start taking parental leave and collecting benefit up to 60 days before the due date. It’s actually compulsory for the mother to take two weeks of leave in connection with the birth, which can either be before or after, and these days are deducted from the 480 days’ total allowance. She is also entitled to at least seven consecutive weeks off before the estimated delivery and seven after the birth.

New fathers or secondary caregivers have an entitlement to ten days’ leave in connection with the birth. And both parents are entitled to be on full-time leave, if they wish, up until the child reaches 18 months of age. The right to parental leave continues until the child’s eighth birthday.

One aspect of the Swedish parental leave system that may surprise newcomers is that it’s actually common not to take the full amount directly after the child’s birth. You can use parental leave until the child’s 12th birthday, so it’s perfectly possible to stash some of those allotted days for the future. There are restrictions on how much you can save though: from the child’s fourth birthday, you can only save 96 days total (132 for twins).

What if my child was born outside Sweden?

If you move to Sweden with a young child, you are usually still entitled to leave and benefits, and to the full amount if the child was under a year old when first registered in Sweden. The number decreases after that; contact Försäkringskassan to find out what applies to you.

Can both parents take leave at the same time?

Only sometimes. During the child’s first year, both parents can take out parental benefit on the same day for a total of 30 days, meaning 60 days would be deducted from the 480-day allowance.

Another exception is in cases of multiple children, ie twins and triplets. In these cases, both parents can choose to take out parental benefit at the same time and therefore share care-giving responsibilities.

If the parent on parental leave gets sick and is unable to care for the child, they can change their status to sick leave allowing the other parent to take parental leave. If a single parent gets too sick to care for their child, another person such as a friend or relative can do this and receive ‘expanded temporary parental benefit’, if the child is younger than three.

If you move to Sweden with a young child you’re usually entitled to leave and benefits. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

And how much money will I get?

There are a few different levels, depending on your circumstances.

Of the total 480 days, 90 are paid at 180 kronor per day and 390 at what is called sickness-level, an amount based on your income. The calculation for this is the same one used to calculate insurance payments for long-term sickness, and for VAB (Vård av barn or care of a sick child) benefit.

If you have been working in Sweden for long enough, you should be entitled to almost 80 percent of your salary up to a certain amount: 1,012 kronor per day, if you are taking out the benefit seven days a week. In order to be eligible for this, you need to have had an annual income of at least 82,300 kronor for at least 240 consecutive days before the estimated delivery date. If you are a recent arrival in Sweden but are an EU citizen, you can use your salary in another EU country to calculate this benefit.

If you have been working, but do not meet the above requirement, you’re entitled to 250 kronor per day for the first 180 days of parental benefit, and after that you will receive the income-based level or 250 kronor, whichever is higher, for the remaining period of sickness-level benefit.

Parents on a low income or who were unemployed or studying before giving birth will receive 250 kronor for the full 390 days of sickness-level benefit. Parents who were job seekers may be eligible to apply for sickness-level benefit based on their previous income, depending on how long they earned that income and whether they are registered with the Public Employment Service.

You can use a tool on the Forsäkringkassan website to find out how much you will be entitled to in your specific situation.

Parents of twins or triplets are entitled to more leave. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/SCANPIX

How do I receive the money?

Ideally, you’ll already be signed up with Försäkringskassan, but if you are moving to Sweden late in the pregnancy, the agency can often make special arrangements – just get in touch with them as soon as possible.

Once you have confirmed with your employer that you’ll be taking leave, you need to register for parental benefit with Försäkringskassan, and then log in and apply for the benefit, either online or via their app. You should apply no later than 90 days after the first day of leave, and can apply for the entire period of leave at once if you want to. Things work slightly differently if you’re not the child’s legal guardian or if you have a protected identity; in these cases, you need to send an application form to Försäkringskassan’s customer centre.

The money will be paid out monthly, on the 25th of each month – the typical payday in Sweden. Just like with salaries, each month you receive money relating to the previous month, so benefits for January 1st-31st are paid on February 25th. If you ended up taking more or less leave than initially applied for, you can make changes up until the 15th of each month.

How do I raise the subject with my employer?

People who moved to Sweden from a country where lengthy parental leave is not the norm may feel nervous about broaching the topic, but you shouldn’t. Parental leave is your legal right, so your employer cannot deny the request as long as it’s made at least two months before you want the leave to begin (or the length of time specified in your workplace’s collective agreement, kollektivavtal, if you have one).

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For members


How does the cost of childcare in Sweden compare to other countries?

Parents in Sweden benefit from a cap on childcare costs, with parents paying different fees based on their household's income. But how does the generous scheme compare to other countries?

How does the cost of childcare in Sweden compare to other countries?

Preschool childcare is not free in Sweden, but fees are income-based, with a maximum fee across the country 1,572 kronor (€145) per child per month (fees for 2022).

There are also deductions for each child if you have multiple children attending preschool at the same time – in this case the maximum fee would be 1,048 kronor for the second child and 503 kronor for the third, with parents paying no fee for any further children.

Children over three are entitled to 15 hours of free preschool education per week, so these are deducted from your fee once your child reaches this age.

To get an idea of how much you would have to pay based on your income, you can use this calculator (in Swedish – similar calculators exist for other municipalities). These fees are adjusted yearly by the Swedish school authorities and are applicable to all municipalities. If your child has a preschool place, you have to pay even if you do not use it – over summer or during holidays, for example.

School meals and preschool meals are free in Sweden, meaning you don’t need to pay extra for your child’s lunch, breakfast, or any snacks served during the day.


The exact amount parents pay for childcare in Denmark depends on the municipality. In Copenhagen Municipality, the cost of nursery (vuggestue up to 2 years and 10 months) is 4,264 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €573). For kindergarten (børnehave from 2 years and 10 months to 6 years) it is 2,738 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €368).

The government pays 75 percent of the cost of a place or even more if your household income is below a certain threshold. 

If you have more than one child using childcare, you pay full price for the most expensive daycare and half-price for the others.


The cost of nursery and kindergarten is capped at 3,050 Norwegian kroner, regardless of the hours attended or whether that facility is state-run or private. This means you’ll never pay more than roughly €295 a month per child in childcare costs.


The costs for daycare centres (Kindertagesstätte, or Kita for short) can differ greatly depending on where you live in Germany, as the fees are set by the local government.

In Schleswig-Holstein in the far north, parents pay on average nine percent of their after-tax income on childcare costs. In Hamburg, 4.4 percent of parent’s income goes on childcare as every child in entitled to five hours of free care a day. In Berlin, daycare is completely free. 


Costs can vary depending on whether it is a  private or public guardería or centro infantil (as nurseries are called in Spanish).

Public ones are heavily subsidised by the government and cost around €100-260 per month, depending on where you live in Spain and your situation. Private nurseries cost between €150 and €580 per month. There is also a fixed yearly fee called a matrícula or enrolment fee, which is around €100.

There is a 50 percent discount for large families and single parents don’t have to pay anything for childcare.

There’s also a deduction of up to €1,000 (cheque guardería) that is applied to the income tax return and works out at around €100 to €160 per month which is aimed at working mothers and is available up until the child is three years old.


In France, crèches tend to be the most affordable option and the cost is based on the family’s income. High earners might pay up to a maximum of €4.20 an hour (€33.60 for an 8-hour day), whereas low-income families might pay €0.26 an hour (€2.08 for an 8-hour day) at a crèche collective, which is for three months to three year olds. At the age of three, compulsory education begins in France.

The cost of a childminder is around €10.88 an hour and up to 50 percent of the costs of a nanny or professional childminder can be reimbursed by the government.

The OECD calculations on the percentage of income spent on childcare – based on two parents both working full time – is 13 percent in France. This is roughly similar to Spain and Italy.


Public nurseries and kindergartens are heavily subsidised and in some cases free, depending on where you live. For example in Vienna, parents only need to pay €72.33 a month to cover meal costs, with low income families being exempt from that fee.
Vienna also subsidises private kindergartens, paying up to €635.44 a month directly to the institution. 
In other provinces, kindergarten is free for part-time hours. It is mandatory for all children in Austria to attend part-time kindergarten from the age of five. They start school aged six.


The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

The average cost of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130 a day (€136). Due to tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost, depending on income. This equates to paying between €41 and €108 a day, roughly €902 to €2,376 a month. 

It’s even more expensive to hire a nannie, which will cost between CHF3,500 (€3,678) and CHF5,000 (€5,255) a month, including mandatory pension contributions.

United Kingdom

According to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of full-time nursery is £1,166 (around €1,304 a month), which is even higher in some parts of London. There are some government subsidies available for low-income families and those receiving benefits and every parent is entitled to 15 or 30 free hours of childcare the term after their child turns three years old.

Childcare conclusion

The cost of childcare varies within each country, depending on family circumstances. However, for guaranteed low childcare costs for every parent, Sweden comes out best, with a maximum of €145 a month.

Average monthly cost of state-run childcare:

Sweden: €145 maximum

Norway: €295 maximum

Austria: €72.33 – roughly €500

Spain: €100 – €260 

Germany: €0 –  €368

Denmark: €368 – €573

France: €45,76 – €739.20 

Switzerland: €902 – €2,376 

U.K. €1,304 which reduces the term after the child turns three.

By Emma Firth and Becky Waterton