Parental leave in Sweden

The baby is here – hooray! But what now?

Sweden is world famous for being a social welfare state. After all that I have experienced, I can just confirm this.

As soon as the baby is born, the father (or partner, as same-sex parents are fully accepted) is entitled 10 working days parental leave. That are 2 full weeks that both parents can spend freely with the new family member.

From the day of birth up to the child’s age of 8 years, the parents have an account of 480 days of paid parental leave. Those can be consumed completely optional during those 8 years. From the beginning these 480 days are allocated to both parents in equal parts. Except for 60 days, one partner can transmit his or her days to the other partner. That means, if one partner does not use his or her parental leave at all, those non-transferable 60 days expire. This system has pushed the fathers more or less softly into parental leave and nowadays a father, who does not stay at home for at least some time with the kids, is considered a bad father. As good as all employers accept it without any discussion, if a father applies for parental leave, no matter how many months. In Linus’ company (software engineering), with mainly men employed, there are always a couple of fathers in parental leave and also Linus was at home with Emil for four paid months. That is the reason why you can meet many fathers taking out their kids for walks on any weekday in the mornings. We call them lovingly “Latte-pappas” as they like to meet up in Cafés.

Another advantage of the Swedish social system is the amount of nursing days that parents are entitled to: a whole 120 paid days per year a kid is allowed to be ill, without pushing the parents into troubles. Because here the same applies as for parental leave: Family first. If his child gets sick in kindergarten, even the CEO would leave a meeting and quit working for the day to pick up his ill child. Nobody would ever even comment on this in a negative way. No bad conscience for the parents, no pressure to organize someone else to care for the child and no holidays wasted when you run out of the ten nursing days, like it is usual in Austria for example. By the way: even relatives, like grandparents, can take out paid nursing days.

In Sweden there is one huge authority, that is in charge with all family-and illness-affairs and partly also unemployment affairs: Försäkringskassan, or freely translated: Insurance office. Without exceptions, every single person, that has a swedish “person number” (I will write about this later), is registered there. You can log in on their webpage and handle almost everything via the internet. Via an app, one can very easily apply for parental or nursing leave. Very convenient. On the other hand “Försäkringskassan” is a huge apparatus and it can happen, that when you call them om their hotline, you get to hear: “Thank you for calling. You have number 478 in the queue.” Fortunately the offer to call you back and usually that works without problems.

I believe that the facts speak for themselves. It is an extremely family friendly system, that allows both parents in quite a generous way to handle the time with their little ones rather relaxed. The well organized kindergarten system helps also, so both parents can start working quite early again, because you are even allowed half days off for parental leave and half days working, as an example. Or 75/25, however one wishes. It is all about organizing and everything is pretty unbureaucratic.

I think, most countries could learn from this system. And even if not everything is perfect in Sweden, but in terms of family policies, Sweden is at the top.



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