On my recent vacation, I visited Stockholm Sweden. In addition to walking the beautiful streets of a city made up of 14 islands and eating lots of pastries, I also had my Healthcare Economist glasses on as well. One thing I noted was the large number of fathers who were walking their babies in a stroller. Why were so many men staying home with their children? Is it the Swedish gender equality ethic? Is it because so many female Swedes work (73% of women work – only 3 percentage points below male employment rates)
Policy explains a lot, however. Sweden has the most generous parental paid leave benefits of any country in the world. Parents are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid leave. The next closest country is Norway with 13 months, and a number of countries (e.g., Albania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Slovenia) offer 12 months paid leave.
As reported in theLocal.se, State-sponsored parental leave (‘föräldraledighet’) can be split between both parents (unless the parent is a single parent in which case they can use all the days). However, the mother cannot use more than 420 days of the paid leave, 60 days are reserved for the father.
According to Mats Mattsson, head of the parental insurance section at Försäkringskassan “The principle is that you split it in half, but that the father can donate part of his leave to the mother, or vice versa.”
Why would employers allow their workers to have so much paid leave? Simple, the state pays parents salaries. Most Swedish parents receive 80 percent of their salary through a government subsidy. The maximum subsidy is 27,300 SEK per month ($4,087 USD). The benefits are targeted to those who have worked in Sweden for over 240 days, but parents who have worked less that 240 days in Sweden still can receive 180 SEK ($27 USD) per day in benefits.
Parents can also get state compensation when they need to take time off work to look after a sick child.
Although Swedish birth rates are low compared to the U.S., they are much higher than many southern European countries. The generous parental leave benefits are certainly part of the reason.
- Mexico: 2.29
- USA: 2.05
- France: 1.96
- UK: 1.91
- Denmark: 1.74
- Sweden: 1.67
- Canada: 1.58
- China: 1.54
- Spain: 1.47
- Germany: 1.41
- Greece: 1.38
- Italy: 1.37
- South Korea: 1.23
- Japan: 1.21