Sweden Takes Lead on Parental Leave

Sweden Takes Lead on Parental Leave

Sweden Charges Ahead Towards Gender Equality With Extensions of Parental Leave for Fathers

Swedish fathers are expected to get a third month of parental leave reserved exclusively for them by 2016 as the Swedish Government strengthens its stand on gender equality.

Currently, Swedish couples with joint custody of their children are able to obtain a total of 480 days together (240 each) and are allowed to lend each other extra days. However, Sanna Fransson, a representative of the Swedish Government has indicated that 60 days out of each parent’s leave is reserved solely for them and can’t be substituted. This has been put into place to equalize the representation of women in the labor market and allow children to communicate better with their fathers.

“We’re extending the parental leave for fathers by a month because we noticed that fathers began to take more leave as the government extended it,” said Tora Heckscher, press secretary to Swedish Minister of Social Security Annika Strandhäll. “The extension is beneficial to everyone. Women aren’t discriminated for their inability to come to work all the time. Kids are able to stay in contact with their fathers. Dads, themselves, develop a better family environment.”

Tora’s commentary on the effect extensions of parental leave have on fathers seems to be fairly accurate. In 1995, when both parents possessed one month of parental leave, fathers only took 5% of this leave, whilst mothers took a whooping 95% of it. In 2014, fathers took approximately 25% of their two months leave, whilst mothers took 75% of it, after the Swedish Government added an extra month of parental leave to the previosly existing one month in 2002.

Heckscher and Fransson both believe the bill, which initiates this extra month of parental leave, should be passed by Swedish Congress this Fall to equalize the level of leave between both spouses to a 50-50 to ameliorate women’s difficulties in the Swedish labor market.  

According to the Guardian, Sweden has the highest percentage of working women, at a giant 77%, out of the whole European Union. However, when compared against Swedish men who are also working full-time, this figure quickly descends to a mediocre 40%. It becomes immensely clear why this new proposal is vital to bolster Sweden’s stance on gender equality.

“We’re creating a system that balances family and work life well for both spouses to increase our state of gender equality,” said Sanna Fransson. “Since 1995, this extension of parental leave has coincided with the abolishment of the joint taxation system as well as expansion of our universal child care provision. All these are for better family connections and more women in the economical market.”

The new individual taxation system allows couples to gain more subsidies and governmental benefits than the previous joint taxation system. Furthermore, the expansion of the childcare provision allows parents to work day, night and even during holidays whilst paying under 1,260 Swedish Krona ($196 US Dollars) per month for their child’s time at his or her preschool, according to the New York Times. This allows Swedish mothers to comfortably work full-time at their jobs without facing major difficulties from employers.

It also encourages Swedish mothers to attain a similar level of workload to Swedish fathers, indirectly decreasing the wage gap between both sexes and fortifying gender equality.

However, Swedish citizens believe the government will also need to seek out other ways of effectively changing their citizens’ perspective on the maternal versus paternal leave issue.

Malin Jörnvi, a Swedish citizen currently residing in New York said, “The tradition of maternal leave is so ingrained in Swedish society that change needs to be reinforced. However, to some extent, I think it should also be up to the parents themselves to decide how they want to split their leave.”

The ambiguity in Malin’s comment makes it clear that the Swedish government will have to find a middle pathway between gender equality, in the form of increased female participation in the labor market, and freedom of choice, in terms of parental leave. Sweden is quickly ascending the ladder of gender equality, via various bills, proposals and unique subsidies unknown to other countries. However, it will also have to educate couples on equal share of parental leave to ensure the government’s way of splitting leave isn’t forced. After all, Sweden does emphasize its strong stances on freedom and equality for all.

Dakshayani is currently a freshman at NYU, majoring in French and Journalism, with minors in German and English Literature. Raised in Malaysia and Australia, Dakshayani enjoys exploring gender roles across various cultures and meeting people who are passionate about the arts. Her interests are predominantly artistic, linguistic or associated with animals: theatre review, French, German, scriptwriting, violin studies, dog shelter volunteering and writing. Dakshayani enjoys learning about people’s perspective on the delicate line between gender, love and sex and is deeply passionate about this. She has a weakness for Siberian huskies and dreams of owning three one day. Besides Her Culture, Dakshayani also works as a Visual Arts Columnist for WSN's The Highlighter and maintains her own WordPress blog.

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