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Paternal Leave in Sweden

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Paternal Leave in Sweden"

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I’ve developed this kind of lingering concern that the popularity of the Millenium Trilogy is going to lead people to believe that Sweden is some kind of international hotbed of oppressive anti-woman practices. The truth is closer to the reverse—Sweden is probably the most feminist-influenced country on earth, as witnessed by the existence of feminist bestselling popular fiction.

Katrin Bennhold in the New York Times takes a look at one aspect of this, the large number of Swedish dads who take time off to take care of the kids:

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From trendy central Stockholm to this village in the rugged forest south of the Arctic Circle, 85 percent of Swedish fathers take parental leave. Those who don’t face questions from family, friends and colleagues. As other countries still tinker with maternity leave and women’s rights, Sweden may be a glimpse of the future. [...]

Swedish mothers still take more time off with children — almost four times as much. And some who thought they wanted their men to help raise baby now find themselves coveting more time at home.

But laws reserving at least two months of the generously paid, 13-month parental leave exclusively for fathers — a quota that could well double after the September election — have set off profound social change.

Walking around the United States you’re not necessarily actively conscious of how rare it is to see fathers alone taking care of young children (at least I’m not) but when I went to Stockholm I was quickly struck by how common it was there. In general Swedish family policy is driven by an interesting form of feminist natalism that’s pretty alien to American political culture, but the result is an unusually high female labor force participation rate and also an unusually high total fertility rate for a developed country.

I can’t see the United States doing anything like this, but countries like Germany and Italy might address some of their demographic problems through these kind of measures.

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