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From the interesting bookThe Almost Nearly Perfect People, comes this one:

Sweden now has some of the most generous parental leave allowance in the world, with 16 months’ leave on 80 percent of wages guaranteed by law, to be taken whenever the parents feel like it up until the child is eight years old.

Without going into the labor economics here, or the taxes that would be required to cover this (actually, given what we know about labor demand and supply elasticities workers would be paying for this themselves one way or another) I was stunned not by the size of the benefit (80 percent of wages) or that it is available to men and women … but rather that you can take the benefit until the kid is EIGHT! Maybe I am crazy, but I would wait until my kid was 7 years and 4 months old, then my wife and I would take off for 8 months and travel the world with the kid. Anyone know how much of Swedish parental leave is taken when the kids are younger versus closer to 8 years old?

I’d give the book a grade of a C+ for those thinking about reading it. If you are familiar with Scandinavian history, there is not as much new in here as I had hoped to see, and the treatments are far shallower than I had hoped from such a book. To be fair, the point of the book was not to be probing and to go into the details of the various country’s economic and political policies, though I had wanted more of that.

My takeaway: I am fascinated with people’s fascination about the Nordic countries. I am also fascinated at how little most people seem to understand the U.S. including most folks who currently live here.

My other two cents: I believe that the pursuit of equality also exhibits diminishing marginal utility, and that the word “equality” is simply short-hand for, “we have not thought that hard about the subject.”

One Response to “Sweden Fact of the Day”

  1. Magnus says:

    As a Swedish father on parental leave I know some about this 🙂
    First – it’s actually 390 days at 80% and 90 with just 180 SEK (~20 USD) per day.

    I do not have any official data but I’d say most of the parental leave is taken during the first 12-18 months. Many save a few of the “poor” (20 USD) days to use when the child(-ren) have their last day at pre-school or such, so that they don’t have to “waste” any vacation on it. Also, many don’t get 80% of their wage. To get this you must use 7 days each week from the 80%-pool but you can use everything between 1 and 7 days per week, meaning you can stretch your leave really long if you can afford it (I myself use 5 days per week, so I only get ~57%).

    Lastly, regarding “Maybe I am crazy, but I would wait until my kid was 7 years and 4 months old, then my wife and I would take off for 8 months and travel the world with the kid.”. This would not be allowed, a maximum of 30 days can be taken by both parents at the same time and only during the childs first year.


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