Sweden is famous for being one of the most gender-egalitarian countries in the world. A generous welfare system makes it easier for both women and men to balance work and family life. In Sweden, parents are given 480 days of parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Mothers and fathers are expected to share equally between these days. It is possible for one parent to take up to 420 days while the remaining 60 days are reserved for the other parent.
Although both parents have the right to share the parental leave, women are more likely to be the primary care-giver (women claim 75 % of parental leave). In the Swedish labor market 30 % of all women work part time compared to only 11 % of men. In 2013 women earned on average 15,8% less than the average male employee and women are underrepresented in economic decision-making positions. This has started a hectic discussion in Swedish politics and media about how to solve this gender gap.
Today, many Swedish parties are arguing about the inequality of parental leave. Feminist Initiative claims that an individualised parental leave scheme is necessary to achieve gender equality. Being a parent is an individual responsibility; children have the right to both of their parents. Feminist Initiative argues that all other public insurances are individual and there’s no reason for the parental leave insurance not to follow that principle. Today women’s unpaid domestic work weakens women’s independence both economically and in the labor market. Many of the parliament parties, like the Social Democrats, The Green Party, The Left Party and the Liberals follow Feminist Initiatives lead, and agree that more men need to use their right to parental leave as a step towards gender equality. The Left Party and the Social Democrats agree with the Feminist Party that parental leave insurance should be individualised while the Liberal Party are ready to reserve a third month for each parent and The Green Party wants to split it into three parts.
However, not all parties in Sweden agree with this development. Parties like the Christian Democrats, The New Moderate Party, The Center and the Swedish Democrats are not in favour of an individualised parental leave and argue that Sweden will not achieve gender equality through state intervention in peoples’ daily lives.
Despite that some of the parties are not in favour of this development it looks like the Swedish Parliament in 2016 will vote for a third month reversed for each parent in the parental leave insurance. The current Swedish government (Social Democrats and The Green Party) are today satisfied with this decision and the Social Insurance Minister Annika Strandhäll expressed herself with the following words:
“Since we know perhaps that it is not enough to achieve equality with parental leave. We will need more steps on the road eventually”