What do Sweden’s foreign residents think of government plans for extra paid leave for parents?

After Sweden's government proposed an extra week's paid leave for parents of young children, we asked our readers what you thought of the policy.

What do Sweden's foreign residents think of government plans for extra paid leave for parents?
Under new proposals, parents would get three days of extra paid leave, or six if they are sole caregivers of a child aged 4-16. Photo: Karin Enge Vivar/Folio/

The proposals would give parents three days off work at 80 percent of their pay, or six days for those who are sole caregivers of children aged four to 16. The aim is to improve work-life balance and give working parents extra time to attend parent-teacher conferences or other events, for example.

We heard from 75 foreigners living in Sweden, including 30 who had children in the 4-16 age range, 21 who said they did not currently have children in the affected age range but might do in future (for example, parents of children aged under four as well as people who hoped to become parents in future), and 24 who did not expect to benefit from the policy (whether they had children aged over 16 or did not plan to have children). 

The survey was not scientific, but among those who responded a majority were in favour of the proposals, with 50 saying they felt “mostly positive” about the idea of a family week, compared to 16 who felt “mostly negative” and nine who said they were “unsure”.

Those who had children in the 4-16 age group or said they might do in future were most likely to feel positive about the proposals, with 25 out of 30 and 17 out of 21 of these respective groups saying they felt mostly positive, compared to only eight of the 24 who did not expect ever to benefit from the policy.

Several respondents praised the initiative as supporting family life, with a large number of readers describing it as “progressive”.

“Any initiative that increases the amount of quality time spent with family is welcome,” said Haris, a developer from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Family week is a good idea, especially in my case as I am an international resident. I will make use of it so that I can spend it with my kid and my parents together during my visit to my home country. My kid is missing growing up with grandparents and cousins.” said a reader who asked to remain anonymous, who works in IT and has an 11-year-old.

“Even in family-friendly Sweden, being a working parent is tough. An extra few days a year to spend with one’s children can only be good for everybody, surely? It feels a lot like those opposing the measure would also have opposed extended parental leave, subsidised childcare, VAB… the things that make Sweden a great place to raise children and, you know, actually be a child,” said British reader Jack, who has a child but is not yet in the age range for family week.

But some were sceptical that the policy would have a tangible impact.

“Money down the drain that could be put to much better use elsewhere. Sweden already has one of the most generous parental welfare systems in the world. It is an additional burden also for employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises who need stability and productivity instead of even more absenteeism,” commented Tony, a retiree who has lived in Sweden for three decades.

“It strikes me as being somewhat of a token policy that will have little positive impact in reality,” said a Swedish mother of two who would be eligible for the extra days’ leave but said she felt “unsure” about whether it was a good move.

Some respondents argued that the family week proposals were based on an outdated definition of family, including several who said that they felt “mostly positive” about the plans but questioned why the benefit would be limited to parents of young children, rather than those with parents to care for, or siblings, nephews, nieces or grandchildren to spend time with.

“Given that people can be families without children, and that families with children aren’t the only ones in need of improved work-life balance, I don’t understand why this proposal is so narrow in scope. However, such a week for everyone would be nice,” an American programmer, who asked to remain anonymous, commented.

“We without children also pay taxes and I think there should be a way to extend this benefit to everyone. Furthermore, parents in Sweden already enjoy a great parental leave benefit compared to many other countries” said a 33-year-old Mexican reader.

One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, was disappointed that little was being done to support people who want to have children but are unable to do so without medical support, noting that over the past year there have been severe shortages of donor sperm at Sweden’s publicly funded fertility clinics.

“This, along with absurd waiting times, has forced patients to seek care in the private sector or abroad even though they have the right to publicly funded treatment. It’s bad enough that patients are having to pay for private treatment because there isn’t enough capacity in the public sector. It just adds insult to injury that those taxes will go to support families with children,” the reader said.

And several readers suggested alternative policies that would improve their lives more effectively than the proposed extra days at 80 percent pay.

“I feel that work-life balance works very well today, with companies already being very flexible. I feel there are better things to focus on like for example the unpaid sick day. Or other areas like building up our basic infrastructure where everyone benefits, not just those fortunate to have kids,” said Mark, a 29-year-old from Ireland.

“I think the current parental and annual leave are generous enough,” said a 38-year-old reader from India, who has children in the four to 16 age group. “One shouldn’t need to take days off for work-life balance but rather focus on increasing productivity and flexibility for employees.”

“It’s unnecessary for the majority of people, I would prefer the money to be spent supporting the school system” said James, a Brit who will be eligible for the time off under the family week proposals.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey for sharing your thoughts. Please note that this was not scientific: we asked our readers to share their thoughts on the family week proposals, and closed the survey after we had received 75 responses. It was optional for respondents to share information about their age and nationality, and those who chose to share this information came from at least 21 different countries, and were aged between 22 and 60. The comments published here are intended as a representative sample of the responses we received.

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Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?


The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,


Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.