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Well-educated Swedish fathers take the most paternal leave – the opposite is true of mothers

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Author: 
Carlström, Vilhelm
Publication Date: 
23 Jul 2018
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EXCERPTS

  • Sweden has some of the world's most generous parental leave laws.
  • Reforms have attempted to promote paternity leave in order to improve job market equality, but a 50:50 split between parents is still far off.
  • The discrepancy in leave between mothers and fathers is smallest among the well-educated.

By international standards parental leave laws in Sweden are very generous. Parents have a right to 480 days of leave of which 390 days are paid at 80% of their normal salary. Parents can split the days almost as they wish, but each parent has an exclusive right to 90 of those days.

In 2017, the average split in parental leave between mothers and fathers of all categories was 72:28, according to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. Fathers have, on average, only taken 106 days of leave by the time their child turns eight and no more parental leave can be taken – less than half of their share.

Parental leave depends on education, income and profession.

New research by Helen Eriksson of Stockholm University finds that there is quite a discrepancy in demographics when it comes to utilizing paternal leave. In Sweden, the group of men with high education levels and those who work in high-salary professions (like doctors and lawyers) on average take twice as much paternal leave as men in low-income jobs and men with lower education levels, ScienceNordic reports. The former group averaged 14 weeks of leave, while the latter group averaged seven weeks of leave.

In contrast, the pattern is reversed among women, with high earners and well-educated women being the group to take the least maternal leave – on average six weeks less than the group of mothers with lower education levels.

Well-educated couples are most likely to split 50:50.

The findings match a report from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency that found that while the amount of maternity leave decreases with level of education, the amount of paternity leave instead increases. While this may sound like a result in opposition to equality it actually means that well-educated couples split their parental leave days most equally, with 36% of couples splitting their days 50:50.

On the other hand, the statistics imply that the bias in distribution of parental leave is most dramatic among groups with lower education levels. One exception is that, for both men and women, managerial positions were correlated with taking small amounts of leave relative to their gender category.

More equal parental leave distribution is a political objective.

In 2017, a government report suggested the days exclusively reserved for each parent (i.e. that cannot be shifted to the other parent) be increased from three months to five months, the Telegraph reports. The provision of days that cannot be transferred to the other parent is important because more than other reforms it has encouraged fathers to take more parental leave, the Local reports. More equal distribution of leave promotes gender equality on the job market as employers are unable to assume that hiring men is a way to avoid parental leave.

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Entered Date: 
24 Jul 2018
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