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Sweden enacts law paying grandparents to take care of grandkids

Robert Besser
6 Jul 2024

STOCKHOLM, Sweden: Sweden has enacted a groundbreaking law allowing grandparents to receive paid parental leave to care for their grandchildren during the child's first year.

The law permits parents to transfer some of their generous parental leave allowances to grandparents, marking a significant expansion in Sweden's comprehensive social welfare system.

Approved by the Swedish parliament in December, the law allows a parent couple to transfer up to 45 days of their parental leave to grandparents, while single parents can transfer up to 90 days, according to the Social Insurance Agency. This agency administers Sweden's social insurance system, which is renowned for its extensive benefits.

In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days (about 16 months) of paid parental leave per child, with compensation for 390 days based on full income and the remaining 90 days at a fixed rate of 180 kronor ($17) per day. Parents can also work reduced hours until the child is 8 years old, with government employees eligible for reduced hours until the child is 12.

This move reinforces Sweden's commitment to supporting families, reflecting a society prioritising care from cradle to grave. In contrast, the United States lacks a national paid maternity leave policy. The Family and Medical Leave Act offers eligible American workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave annually, but it is unpaid.

Vicki Shabo, a researcher at New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, emphasized the disparity: "We have no federal, national-level entitlement to paid parental leave at all."

While 13 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., have established paid family leave programs, these typically offer about three months of leave, far less than Sweden's benefits. As of March last year, only a quarter of U.S. civilian workers they had access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jared Make, vice president at A Better Balance, highlighted the limitations in the U.S., noting that even in states with paid leave, the benefits are not transferable to grandparents unless they act as the child's parent. "Families often extend beyond the nuclear family," Make said, adding that Sweden's example shows how far behind the U.S. is.

Alexandra Wallin of Sweden's Social Insurance Agency explained that the new law aims to provide "greater opportunities" for families. The requirements for grandparents to receive parental allowance are similar to those for parents, ensuring most Swedes are covered.

In Avesta, a town 140 kilometers northwest of Stockholm, Ritva Karkkainen told Swedish broadcaster SVT that she is considering taking time off work to care for her grandchildren.

Since 1974, when Sweden replaced maternity leave with parental leave for both parents, the uptake by fathers has increased significantly. Initially, only 0.5 percent of paid parental leave was taken by fathers; today, they account for around 30 percent.

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