But with opposition parties saying they oppose the change, Sweden's minority Social Democrat-Green government could struggle to get it passed in parliament.
At present, Sweden offers 480 days of subsidized parental leave per child which can be shared as parents wish, but with at least three months allocated to each parent on a “use-it-or-lose-it” basis.
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A government-commissioned investigation has reviewed how the system can be modernised, in particular when it comes to making parental leave more gender-equal, as well as more suitable for modern family formats.
Presented to Minister for Health and Social Affairs Annika Strandhäll on Monday, one of the key suggestions from the investigation is to increase the use-it-or-lose-it amount to five months (151 days) per parent.
Investigator Lars Arrhenius argues in his report that those days are the biggest contributing factor to the sharing of parental leave, noting that it will “mean parents must change their current use in order to not lose out on days and the proposal is expected to have a strong effect on the distribution of parental leave”.
In order to make the leave system more suitable for modern families, the report also proposes that cohabitants (sambos) should be treated equally as a parent, without the requirement that the partner is married to the other parent or that the two had the child together.
A further proposal is to make it easier to give a share of the parental leave (30 days) to a person who is neither the child’s parent or guardian– for example a grandparent.
Idag mottog @strandhall utredningen om en modern föräldraförsäkring. Försäkringen ska bidra till jämställdhet på arbetsmarknaden och ett jämställt föräldraskap. #jämpol #svfemreg #svpol https://t.co/qSAFSlJaSp pic.twitter.com/iaQ1cUlg2I
— Socialdepartementet (@socialdep) December 18, 2017
“Parental compensation is a very important part of the Swedish model which has built our country so successfully. As such it's crucial that the compensation develops along with society,” Minister for Health and Social Affairs Strandhäll said in a statement.
The report also suggests that the total number of parental leave days offered should drop from 480 to 460, but that the 90 days within the allowance currently paid at the lowest flat rate should instead be paid at the standard rate. At present only 390 days are paid at the standard rate of around 80 percent of the parent's income.
“The compensation for the lowest rate days is so low that in many cases it doesn’t function as compensation for the lost income from work. Parental compensation therefore doesn’t give all parents the real economic possibility to care for their children during the 90 days covered at the lowest level,” the report points out.
The proposals will now be put out for referral before becoming a government bill, but it has already hit a snag: five opposition parties in the Riksdag say they don't back the change, which means the minority government will have to negotiate if they want to get it passed.
The Moderates, Liberals, Centre Party, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats all oppose increasing the use-it-or-lose-it period to five months per parent, with the latter two parties also opposing the current three months.