Paternity leave hits Norway cabinet, PM thrilled

Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:33pm EST
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By Walter Gibbs

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's governing cabinet is seriously undermanned; and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg couldn't be happier.

One of his signature issues has been expanding the "father quota" in Norway's parental leave program, encouraging dads to stay home with their babies for at least 10 weeks at full pay.

Now that his justice minister and family affairs minister have joined Oslo's parade of male pram pushers on the state payroll, Stoltenberg is no less enthusiastic about the program.

"I miss them," he told Reuters outside a cafe where the three leaders and the two babies were about to meet for the first time in 2011.

"But it can't be that men are more indispensable to the workplace -- or to the government -- than women."

The head of Norway's Labor-led coalition recalled his own strolls in the park with a newborn in 1989 and added: "I have never met so many women as I did then."

Once in the cafe, as photographers clicked away, Justice Minister Knut Storberget said he'd paid little attention to prosecution issues dominating the media since his leave began on January 1.

"I have been living in a bubble with my baby," the 46-year-old said, "so it will be very strange to go back to work, even though I've been a minister for almost six years."   Continued...