Today we visited Malmo's Head of Communications in the Cultural Department, Dick Fredholm, to talk about parental leave in Sweden. As the manager of one of the key sectors in the city of Malmo, it was very interesting to hear that Dick had been a stay-at-home dad earlier in his life. The work-to-life balance in Sweden is very different than what we currently have in the US.
Parental leave is required by the government. All the mainstream political parties agree that paid parental leave is good policy and beneficial to all involved. All employers must offer their employees paid leave for starting and expanding their family. Between both parents, 480 days off must be taken per child. Each of these 480 days are completely paid for by the employer. You can divide these days however you want, so long as the father figure is allotted three full months of care. This is to incentivize parental involvement in their children’s lives and allow both parents to be present during critical child developmental stages. These 480 days also extend to single parent households, allowing the single mom or single dad to spend significant time with their newborn.
In Sweden, parental leave is valued. It is personal development and growth in one’s personal life. You are not lagging if you have children. Dick even told us that he prefers to hire someone who has taken parental leave or will go on leave because it shows that they know how to live a balanced life. The job market in Sweden and America are different in this way. I know people who have been let go because they discovered they were pregnant. Others cannot afford to take leave because their career would halt if they took any time off, due to the highly competitive job market. This is practically unheard of in Sweden.
Between paid parental leave and free universal health care, Sweden is looking like an attractive place to start a family!
Stay tuned to hear more about our Scandinavian adventures!