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Swedish parental leave and gender equality - Achievements and reform challenges in a European perspective

Author

Listed:
  • Duvander, Ann-Zofie

    (Institute for Futures Studies)

  • Ferrarini, Tommy

    () (Stockholm University)

  • Thalberg, Sara

    () (Stockholm University)

Abstract

Sweden was the first country to introduce paid parental leave also to fathers in 1974, and this legislation has since then continuously been reformed in order to bring about a more equal parenthood. This study sets out to discuss the Swedish parental leave system and identify achievements, policy dilemmas and reform alternatives in a European perspective. The structure of parental insurance legislation, with earnings-related benefits and a long leave period, is often seen as a main explanation why Sweden has been able to combine relatively high fertility levels with high female labour force participation rates and low child poverty. In the perspective of changing demographic structures in Europe, with declining fertility levels and a growing number of elderly, the strengthening of dual earner family policies, including parental insurance legislation, may mitigate macro-economic and demographic problems by increasing gender equality and decreasing the work-family conflict. Despite the positive consequences, unresolved questions exist in the present parental leave legislation. The flexibility of the Swedish system, which still has extensive transferable leave rights, has the consequence that the lion’s share of parental leave days is still taken by mothers, among other things making it difficult for women to compete on equal terms with men in the labour market. Consequently, the gender-based division of parental leave may contribute to a preservation of traditional gender roles and inequalities. Another problem in the Swedish system is the work requirement for eligibility that excludes students and others with weak labour market attachment from the earnings-related benefits, possibly inflicting on the postponement of parenthood. Raising the minimum benefit could be one solution to enable childbearing among persons with weak labour market attachment, but this would also affect the economic incentives for paid work, and thus weaken the dual earner model.

Suggested Citation

  • Duvander, Ann-Zofie & Ferrarini, Tommy & Thalberg, Sara, 2005. "Swedish parental leave and gender equality - Achievements and reform challenges in a European perspective," Arbetsrapport 2005:11, Institute for Futures Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifswps:2005_011
    Note: ISSN 1652-120X ISBN 91-89655-69-9
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Cited by:

    1. Brink, Anna & Nordblom, Katarina & Wahlberg, Roger, 2007. "Maximum fee vs child benefit: A welfare analysis of Swedish child-care fee reform," Working Papers in Economics 250, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    2. Spiess, C.Katharina & Wrohlich, Katharina, 2008. "The Parental Leave Benefit Reform in Germany: Costs and Labour Market Outcomes of Moving towards the Nordic Model," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 575-591.
    3. Spiess, C. Katharina & Wrohlich, Katharina, 2006. "The Parental Leave Benefit Reform in Germany: Costs and Labour Market Outcomes of Moving towards the Scandinavian Model," IZA Discussion Papers 2372, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Gunnar Andersson & Jan M. Hoem & Ann-Zofie Duvander, 2005. "Social differentials in speed-premium effects in childbearing in Sweden," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2005-027, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Parental leave; gender equality; reform challenges;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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