Eyeing competitiveness, Nordics debate more 'latte pappas'

Fri May 22, 2015 7:08am EDT
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By Balazs Koranyi and Daniel Dickson

OSLO/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Nordic nations are the tops when it comes to gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum's global rankings which reviews the gaps between men and women in a range of areas, including the economy.

But not happy to rest on their laurels, some of these progressive, northern European states are debating how much further paid parental leave needs to be pushed onto fathers to liberate more women into the workforce.

Supporters of balanced sharing of parental leave say it boosts employment rates, narrows pay inequalities and generates family lifestyles that are the envy of those living in countries with a more conservative approach to child rearing.

A 2010 Swedish government study showed that for each month the father takes leave, the mother's future annual income increases by 7 percent.

"We are a feminist government and one of our goals is to increase labor market participation through 2020," said Annika Strandhall, Sweden's social security minister. "Hopefully this is one of the things that contributes to that."

While Scandinavians see the benefits of dads changing diapers, there is little consensus on how to move forward. The controversy is whether governments have the right to deprive families of some paid leave if fathers do not take their quota.

Sweden offers couples 480 days of parental leave, with 60 of those days reserved for fathers. To further encourage male parenting, the government in Stockholm is now planning to raise that total to 90 days.

Norway offers some 59 weeks of parental leave, again largely paid, but the government has cut the quota reserved for men to 10 weeks from 14, citing family choice.   Continued...

Peter Talos adjusts the pram of his daughter Karin, as they spend time together during his parental leave, in Oslo, October 5, 2012.  REUTERS/Heiko Junge/NTB Scanpix