Promoting Parental Leave
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Sweden has implemented several reforms to their parental leave policy, with the aim of increasing the sharing of parental leave among mothers and fathers. Since 1974, Swedish parents have been able to take up to six months of paid leave after the birth of a child under the country’s parental leave insurance. The pay was equivalent to 90-percent of the parent’s earnings or was set at a flat rate if the parent had no prior earnings. Initially, parents could share this leave time as they preferred (i.e., one parent could take six months leave, both parents could take three months leave, or some other combination adding up to six months). By the 1990s, the allotted time had been extended to twelve months paid leave based on earnings and an additional three months paid at a flat rate. From the mid-nineties through 2008, Sweden enacted several additional reforms to parental leave insurance aimed at encouraging more gender equality in leave time among fathers and mothers. In 1995, one month of leave was reserved for each parent (i.e., if a given parent chose not to use his or her month of leave, that month was forfeited and the other parent could take only eleven months of leave). In 2002, this reserved leave was extended to two months per parent. Also in 2002, however, the full amount of leave time was increased to sixteen months (thirteen months at the earnings-related rate plus three months at a flat rate). This implied that although an additional month was reserved for each parent, the other parent could still take up to fourteen months of leave (Duvander and Johansson, 2010).
- Supporting Parenting and Assisting with Childcare
- Support parents’ participation in the labour market
Countries that have implemented practice
- Middle Childhood (age 6 to 12)
- Young Children (age 0 to 5)
- Adults (age 20+)
Years in operation
- 2002 - still operating
Scope of practice
- National level
Rationale of practice
The aim of this system is to encourage the sharing of parental leave between mothers and fathers.
Type of organisation implementing practice
- National Government
Mode of deliveryNot available
Delivery dosageNot available
Location of practice
- Family / home based
Evidence of effectiveness
The effect of the two-month parental leave reserve reform combined with a one month extension to overall leave in Sweden has been assessed using a regression discontinuity design (Duvander and Johansson, 2012). This evaluation used data on 5,489 pairs of parents from the Swedish Social Insurance Exchange who had a child born between two weeks prior to two weeks post reform implementation (January 1, 2002), and had joint custody of the child from birth through twenty-four months post reform implementation (the observation period). The results of this evaluation are summarized below.
Summary of Results
(at twenty-four months post reform)
Use of parental benefit days by fathers
Use of parental benefit days by mothers
Proportion of fathers using:
Proportion of mothers using:
No Effect on these Outcomes
Proportion of mothers using:
* Outcomes improved had to demonstrate effects that were statistically significant at least at the 0.05 level.
While parental leave reforms have been implemented in other European Union countries, the exact structure of Sweden’s two-month reserve leave reform combined with the extension from twelve to thirteen months of overall leave has not been implemented elsewhere.
Practice MaterialsNot available
- Implementation cost information is not available
The analysis by Duvander and Johansson (2012) assessed the impact of the sixteen-month paid leave policy which included the two-month reserve leave per parent restriction, and found the effect of the reform to be positive on father’s and mother’s use of parental benefit days through twenty-four months post-reform.
Duvander and Johansson (2012) assessed the effect of the two-month parental leave reserve reform combined with a one month extension to overall leave in Sweden using a regression discontinuity design. Data were obtained on 5,489 pairs of parents from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. Parental pairs were eligible for inclusion in the study if they had a child born between two weeks prior to two weeks post reform implementation (January 1, 2002) and had joint custody of the child from birth through twenty months post reform implementation (the observation period). Multiple-births, foreign-born, adoptions, same-sex parents, and parents of children who died or emigrated during the observation period were excluded from the sample. The 2,909 pairs of parents meeting the eligibility criteria and with children born on or within two weeks of the reform implementation date, January 1, 2002, were assigned to the treatment group and 2,580 pairs of parents meeting eligibility criteria and with children born in the two weeks prior to the implementation date were assigned to the control group. Duvander & Johansson (2010), describe the baseline characteristics for the treatment and control groups. The two groups did not differ significantly on sex of child, parent’s age, parent’s country of birth, parent’s sector of employment, parent’s metro residence, or parent’s education. Significantly more children in the intervention group were the second born child of their fathers than children in the control group (33.9% vs. 31.2%). Significantly fewer children in the intervention group were first born children of their mothers than among children in the control group (46.9 vs. 50.0) and significantly more children in the treatment group were the second born child of their mothers compared to children in the control group (35.9% vs. 31.7%). Significantly more fathers in the treatment group were in the high earnings group compared to fathers in the control group (34.3% vs. 31.8%) and significantly fewer fathers in the control group were in the medium earnings group compared to fathers in the control group (40.3% vs. 42.9%).
At twenty months after the implementation of the reform, the following outcomes were found:
- Number of parental benefit days used by each parent:
- Fathers in the treatment group used significantly more parental benefit days than fathers in the control group (47.1 days vs. 40.7 days).
- Mothers in the treatment group also used significantly more parental benefit days than mothers in the control group (278.0 days vs. 271.1 days).
- Results did not change when baseline characteristics were controlled for in the analyses
- Proportion of parental benefit time used by each parent:
- Among fathers, the proportion of treatment fathers using any number of parental benefit days was significantly higher than the proportion of control fathers using any number of parental benefit days (treatment: 74.8% vs. control: 70.0%), for greater than 30 days (51.5% vs. 37.9%), and for greater than 60 days (26.9% vs. 22.8%).
- There was no effect of the reform on the proportion of mothers who used parental benefit for any number of days (treatment: 98.2%, control: 97.7%). Mothers in the treatment group were more likely to use greater than 30 parental benefit days (97.9% vs. 96.8%), and greater than 60 parental benefit days (97.5% vs. 96.0%).
Issues to consider
Duvander and Johansson’s (2012) analysis of Sweden’s sixteen month paid leave policy with a two-month reserve leave restriction included a national level sample of all parental pairs meeting the inclusion criteria. The parental pairs were assigned to intervention and control groups based on whether their child was born within two weeks before or two weeks after the policy reform implementation.
The Duvander and Johansson (2012) analysis assessed the impact of the reform on parental benefit days used by both parents. The economic impact of this reform has not been assessed.
Sweden’s Parental Leave Act: http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/5807/a/104985
Additional information on Sweden’s parental benefit policy can be found here: http://www.government.se/sb/d/15473/a/183497
- Duvander, A.Z., and Johansson, M., What are the Effects of reform promoting father’s parental leave use? Journal of European Social Policy, 2012.
- Duvander, A.Z., and Johansson, M., What are the Effects of reform promoting father’s parental leave use? Working Paper, Swedish Social Insurance Inspectorate, 2010.
Social Ministry, Sweden
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