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Families and Family Policies in Sweden

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Handbook of Family Policies Across the Globe

Abstract

Sweden is known as a social welfare state, whereby the people who reside in Sweden are entitled to certain public benefits at little or no cost to the individual. Over the past century, Sweden has reshaped its culture, growing from one of the poorest nations in Europe to a flourishing country that others emulate, especially with respect to their family policies. Sweden has developed several foundational family policies that have helped to encourage equality, while establishing a sense of individuality. Sweden has created similar rights for cohabiters/married couples, as well as for same-sex/opposite-sex couples. Parents receive a generous parental leave package, flexible employment choices, and there is a low gender wage gap, while children receive high-quality childcare, free health care, free dental care, free mental health services, and a substantial child welfare program. Swedish family policies encourage both parents to work and to help each other with household and childcare tasks. Despite the public benefits that Sweden provides for mothers, fathers, and children, there is still a need for further improvements regarding policies on domestic violence, poverty, and child welfare. Assessments of Sweden’s family policies are discussed.

The authors wish to thank Ann-Zofie Duvander, Linda Haas and Anna Sarkadi for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this chapter.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Foreign origins meaning either the child or both of the child’s parents were born in another country.

  2. 2.

    Among the OECD countries, only Denmark spends more on individual public consumption: 22 %. The USA spends 7 % (Statistics Sweden, 2012).

  3. 3.

    A family with “high-bracket income” has the means to support another family while maintaining their living standard at a comparatively high level (Barnombudsmannen, 2010).

  4. 4.

    Around 86 % of women become mothers in Sweden, which is higher than many other European countries (Sobotka, 2004).

  5. 5.

    Right-wing governments led the country from 1976 to 1982, from 1991 to 1994, and from 2006 to the present. During World War II, a government consisting of left- and right-wing political parties was in charge.

  6. 6.

    Naturally, this chapter does not aim to be comprehensive, as entire books (i.e., see Lundqvist, 2011) have been written about Swedish family policy and even those books leave information out (Haas, 2012). However, it is the aim of this chapter to provide a coherent basic understanding of Sweden’s family policies and their influences.

  7. 7.

    In 2009, Finland spent 4 % of its GDP on research and development, while the USA spent 2.8 %.

  8. 8.

    For parents with dependent children, there is a trial period of 6 months after first filing for divorce. For the divorce to go through, one of the parties has to send a written confirmation to the authorities six months after the initial filing.

  9. 9.

    However, other studies looking at people’s lifetime abuse rates show much higher numbers: for example, in a study on 2,755 separated or divorced women in Sweden, 35 % stated that they at some point were abused either through physical violence, threatening, or sexual violence (Lundgren et al., 2002).

  10. 10.

    Women tend to report abuse less often than men because more often than men, they know their abuser (Brottsförebyggande rådet, 2011).

  11. 11.

    At the present, the low flat rate for parents who did not work prior to having a child is 5,400 SEK (approx. $840 USD) per month before tax. However, the government has proposed a raise to 6,750 SEK (approx. $1,050 USD) per month, being introduced in January 2013.

  12. 12.

    There is a cap of 440,000 SEK per year (approx. $65,170 USD). Therefore, people earning a higher yearly salary than this will only be compensated during their parental leave at 80 % of this amount (The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2012). However, due to agreements between many unions and employers, the employers add remunerations to the insurance, which can give parents on leave more than 80% of their salary.

  13. 13.

    When the child is under a year old, parents may take “double days” up to 30 days, where both parents are using parental leave at the same time. However, once the child is a year or more, only one parent can use parental leave at a time (The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2012).

  14. 14.

    As of January 1, 2013, parents have to use 80 % of their parental leave days by the time the child is four years old (or they lose those days) but are permitted to use the remaining 20 % until the child is 12 years old.

  15. 15.

    For example, if one parent took 160 days of parental leave and then the other parent took 70 days of leave, that family would receive a 50 SEK per day bonus for 10 days (bonus  =  500 SEK), as the first 60 days were guaranteed to that parent to begin with. Since you can only receive the bonus for 390 days of parental leave, if all days were used and split completely evenly (195 days per parent), the maximum bonus would be (195 days − 60 guaranteed parental leave days) * 50 SEK  =  a bonus of 6,750 SEK, (approx. $1,050 USD).

  16. 16.

    The municipality receives government funding to keep the childcare fees down. The fees to the families are wage-/income-related, but the state directives/regulations are that a family/household should never pay more than 1,260 SEK/month ($188 USD/month) for the first child in childcare, 840 SEK/month ($125 USD/month) for the second child, and 420 SEK/month ($63 USD/month) for the third childcare and never more than 3 % of the household income for the first child, 2 % for the second child, and 1 % for the third child. The fees for children in after-school childcare are lower. The maximum fee the municipality can charge is 2 % of the household’s income and 840 SEK/month ($120 USD/month) for the first child and 1 % and 420 SEK/month ($63 USD/month) for the second and the third child (URL 13).

  17. 17.

    Swedish high school ends at age 19 for most students.

  18. 18.

    All children up to the age of 16 receive the general child allowance of 1,050 SEK/month, around $145 USD, tax free. This is done so as to help even out the financial inequalities between those with children and those without children. In addition, parents with two or more children receive a large family supplement, the amount depending on the number of children. A family with two children receives 2,250 SEK per month (approx. $330 USD), while a family with three children receives in total 3,754 SEK/month (approx. $517 USD), with four children 5,814 SEK/month (approx. $800 USD), and with five children 8,114 SEK/month (approx. $1,118 USD). When the child turns 16, the child allowance is transferred to the student allowance for children attending high school (The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2010).

  19. 19.

    Many children receive more than this amount, as it is based on the parents’ pension.

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Wells, M.B., Bergnehr, D. (2014). Families and Family Policies in Sweden. In: Robila, M. (eds) Handbook of Family Policies Across the Globe. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6771-7_7

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