How Sweden innovates
First in the world, Sweden has graduated from maternity leave to parental balance. Prolonged absences have often been held responsible for plaguing women's careers and few solutions have been suggested but Sweden may have found the working formula. The New York Times explains how the Scandinavian country has taken an important step towards gender equality by promoting shared parental leave…and putting in place the incentives that made it popular.
The measures put in place
In 1974, Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave.
Only 6% of fathers were taking advantage of parental leave in 1991.
Women continued to take parental leave because of tradition but also because it was the rational financial decision.
In 1995, one month of paternity leave was introduced.
Fathers were not forced to stay at home, but families lost one month of subsidies if they did not.
In 2002, a second father-exclusive month was added.
“If the Social Democrats win Sweden’s election on Sept. 19, as opinion polls predict, they will double the nontransferable leave for each parent to four months, said Mona Sahlin, the party leader who would become Sweden’s first female prime minister.”
The impressive results
By providing the incentive for men to stay at home, the government really sparked radical changes.
- At first, the rare fathers who took parental leave were dubbed “velvet dads.”
- Today, even though Swedish mothers still take four times as much time off as their husbands, 85% of Swedish fathers take leave.
- 80% of fathers now take a third of the total 13 months and 9% of fathers take at least 40% of the total leave.
- The change is so deep that it is redefining masculinity, giving the term a more holistic value which encompasses parenting skills.
- A study by the Swedish Institute of Labor Market Policy Evaluation found that a mother’s future earnings increased, on average, by 7% for every month of leave their husband takes.
- Companies now expect their employees to take leave no matter their gender.
- Since 1995, the year when “daddy leave” was introduced, divorce and separation rates in Sweden have dropped when they have risen throughout the world.
Other countries are following in Sweden’s footsteps
Portugal is the only country in the world to have mandatory paternity leave, but it is only a week long.
Iceland has reserved three months for each parent and allotted an additional three months to be split among the parents.
Larger countries can also follow Sweden’s example, in 2007 Germany reserved two of the fourteen months of paid leave for fathers.
- Members of the European Parliament draft controversial maternity leave plan
- Annual Women's Business Forum stars men
- Michelle Bachelet to lead the UN's women's rights agency
- The curse of motherhood
- Another revolutionary pill?
- Universities worldwide adopt gender studies – so should the corporate world
- Rwanda shows the world how to gender balance politics
- Catalyst Research Busts Myths About the Ideal Worker
- New Gender Diversity Projects Set the Bar Higher
- Women Prefer To Compete in Teams
- Women Like Blackberry Better, Men Prefer Android