High participation of women in the Swedish labour market

When we discuss economic growth in EU countries we often reflect on the need to get more women into the labour market. Today, one of the main obstacles to women joining the labour market in many European countries is the cost of child care. The high costs simply make it too expensive to remain working. The EU average rate of women’s participation in the labour market is 59,1% according to Eurostat. As the Swedish Ambassador in London I often get questions about why the participation of women in the labour market in Sweden is so much higher at 81%. There are several explanations. The main one has to do with the fact that Sweden has an extensive child care system that guarantees a place for all young children aged two to six in a public day care facility. It is also explained by the high level of trust in public day care facilities that you notice among Swedes. Trust is an important factor when you look at how well the Nordic countries are faring in the prosperity index.

The majority of young children in Sweden start at a day care facility at the age of 18 months. In 2001, a cap on child care fees was introduced. In Stockholm the maximum fee for child care is SEK1,260 per month which is roughly equivalent to £126. The fee includes a cooked lunch and snacks. If you have more than one child the fee decreases with each child. If you have a fourth child there is no fee for that child. In addition, parents who are unemployed have the right to send their child/children to a day care facility for a certain number of hours each week to facilitate job-seeking.

In general, Swedes benefit from a generous social welfare system that provides maternity and paternity leave. Parents are entitled to a total of 390 days of paid leave at 80% of a government-determined salary cap between birth and the child’s eighth birthday. Parents may split those days however they wish, but 60 of the days are reserved specifically for the father. In addition, parents can take 90 days with a guaranteed payment of SEK180 (£18) per day.

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