Sweden's paternity-leave benefits, enjoyed by citizens and foreign residents alike, are the most generous in the world—and a debate is under way nationwide over whether to extend them even further. Sweden should require men to take a minimum of three months' leave, instead of the current two months, some politicians argue.
Fathers currently can take off work for as long as 240 days with a government-backed paycheck. Even if a father decides to take a more modest leave than allowed, he must take at least two months before the child is 8 years old to receive the government benefits.
Scores of dads can be seen during typical business hours strolling the streets of Stockholm, Gothenburg and other big cities pushing a stroller with one hand and nursing a cup from Espresso House or Wayne's Coffee in the other. It isn't uncommon to see men feeding babies and changing diapers in Stockholm's famous Djugarden park island, which is within view of some of the city's biggest companies and financial institutions.
Since being instituted in 1974, the paternity-leave policy has evolved from being a mechanism to encourage women to join what was a depleted workforce in the 1970s, to serve as a tool for gender equality and home stability today.
The Swedish government will pay 80% of a parent's salary—up to a cap of about $65,000—for 13 months. One parent can sign over all but two of these months to the other.
Government statistics show the vast majority of fathers take off at least the minimum two months. And about 72% of working-age women living in Sweden are employed at least part time, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Image: Father and baby, via Shutterstock