Parental leave, both for fathers and mothers

Friday morning. I went to the sejm to listen to the “second exposé” of Prime Minister Tusk – a policy speech that presented his Government’s priorities for the next three years.  

It was certainly a challenging hour since it was held in Polish. Still my lessons paid off to a certain extent. I could not catch everything but at least the main elements.

One of them was – as expected – family policy. Less expected but obviously encouraging was the clear reference to Sweden.

We have received some inquiries afterwards, among other things an interview by TVN24 with me Friday afternoon. http://www.tvn24.pl/polska-i-swiat,33,m/socjalne-wsparcie,282356.html

And I heard that there had been other TV-programmes as well along the same lines. http://dziendobry.tvn.pl/video/roczny-urlop-macierzynski,1,newest,62925.html

What has been the Swedish approach?

A variety of measures that has enabled fathers and mothers to combine responsibility for children and paid work in the labour market. There shouldn’t be a need to choose. When for example individual taxation was introduced in the early 70’s that clearly stimulated women to enter into the labour market on a much broader scale (where their participation now is around 75%).

The combination of parental leave and high quality, affordable day care for children was additionally added during the years and decades that followed.

Fathers or mothers now have the possibility to stay at home with their new born baby during 13 months with compensation for their salary (80% up to a certain ceiling – and then another three with a flat rate of 20 EUR per day). We transformed maternal leave to parental leave – possible to use for either father or mother – in the mid 70’s. Still initially fathers were strongly underrepresented.

Now things have begun to change. 20 years ago a system of “Daddy’s days” were introduced. And later on also an equality bonus was entered into the system, raising the compensation if the parental leave is more evenly shared.

Hence, benefit days are distributed equally between the parents. The father and mother are free to distribute the amount of leave between each other, with the exception of two months which are reserved for each parent. These two months per parents will be lost if they are not claimed.

That has significantly increased the share of fathers staying at home with children. Before that reform half of the fathers used at least some time. Now the figure is above 80%. The position of fathers towards their employers has been strengthened. This is my right, they can say, and additionally – I will lose that benefit if I don’t use it now together with my child.

That has been beneficial for us fathers. I can tell because I have personal experience. I should have taken more time than I did but the time I did take, like the two months in 1992 with our eldest daughter, made a huge difference. The relation we established those precious days still pay off today.

But it also benefits women. There is a positive correlation between father’s parental leave and an increase in women’s earning. Because it becomes clear to all employers that parental responsibilities are joint responsibilities for women and men. Not a female segment of life and society.

Additionally it is has also been shown that women and men who share the parental leave not only get more children but they also end up less often in a divorce.

Finally, I think the importance of high quality, subsidized and thus affordable day care for children over one year of age cannot be overestimated if judging by Swedish experiences. It is crucial for children as well as for their parents. It means security as well as stimulus.

And it encourages families to give birth to more children at the same time as it creates the necessary conditions for participation in the labour market for both women and men.

Much more could be said and added. But the role of the fathers is perhaps the one I would like to emphasize today. Not only because I am a father myself – although that helps…


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