Sweden is planning to introduce a third month of paid parental leave reserved for fathers as of 2016, in a bid to further increase gender equality, the country’s government has announced.
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Sweden offers a generous 16-month parental leave which can be taken by either mothers or fathers, with two months of that set aside for dads.
A third month “is something we’ve really looked forward to. We know that this is a key issue towards attaining greater [gender] equality,” social security minister Annika Strandhäll told Radio Sweden.
The country introduced a first month reserved specifically for fathers under a “use it or lose it” system in 1995, and a second month in 2002.
Under the fresh government proposal, mothers and fathers would each be required to take three months’ leave, or lose them. The remaining 10 months would be divided however the parents wished.
But the reserved months have over the years become known as “daddy months” because they are aimed at encouraging fathers to share more of the parental leave.
Parents receive 80% of their salary while on leave, capped at a salary ceiling of around €4,000 (£2,900) per month.
Despite great strides in gender equality, Swedish men still earn more than women in general, and as a result men take more of an economic hit by staying home with their children.
Forcing parents to use it or lose it, meaning mothers cannot get the months reserved for fathers, the policy therefore encourages dads to stay home.
Women currently claim about 75% of parental leave, compared with 99.5% when it was introduced in 1974.
Parental leave can be used at any time before the child’s eighth birthday.
About 80% of children in Sweden have two working parents, but only 40% of women work full-time compared with 75% of men, according to 2013 statistics.
Official figures from Eurostat show that 77% of women in Sweden had a job in 2014 – the highest level in the European Union.
Children are guaranteed a place in childcare from the age of 12 months for a very modest sum, making it possible for women to return to work.
The minority Social Democratic government plans to present its bill to parliament in the autumn, and it is expected to pass with the support of the Left and Liberal parties.