The proposals would give parents three days off work at 80 percent of their pay, or six days for those who are sole caregivers of children aged four to 16. The aim is to improve work-life balance and give working parents extra time to attend parent-teacher conferences or other events, for example.
We heard from 75 foreigners living in Sweden, including 30 who had children in the 4-16 age range, 21 who said they did not currently have children in the affected age range but might do in future (for example, parents of children aged under four as well as people who hoped to become parents in future), and 24 who did not expect to benefit from the policy (whether they had children aged over 16 or did not plan to have children).
The survey was not scientific, but among those who responded a majority were in favour of the proposals, with 50 saying they felt “mostly positive” about the idea of a family week, compared to 16 who felt “mostly negative” and nine who said they were “unsure”.
Those who had children in the 4-16 age group or said they might do in future were most likely to feel positive about the proposals, with 25 out of 30 and 17 out of 21 of these respective groups saying they felt mostly positive, compared to only eight of the 24 who did not expect ever to benefit from the policy.
Several respondents praised the initiative as supporting family life, with a large number of readers describing it as “progressive”.
“Any initiative that increases the amount of quality time spent with family is welcome,” said Haris, a developer from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Family week is a good idea, especially in my case as I am an international resident. I will make use of it so that I can spend it with my kid and my parents together during my visit to my home country. My kid is missing growing up with grandparents and cousins.” said a reader who asked to remain anonymous, who works in IT and has an 11-year-old.
“Even in family-friendly Sweden, being a working parent is tough. An extra few days a year to spend with one’s children can only be good for everybody, surely? It feels a lot like those opposing the measure would also have opposed extended parental leave, subsidised childcare, VAB… the things that make Sweden a great place to raise children and, you know, actually be a child,” said British reader Jack, who has a child but is not yet in the age range for family week.
But some were sceptical that the policy would have a tangible impact.
“Money down the drain that could be put to much better use elsewhere. Sweden already has one of the most generous parental welfare systems in the world. It is an additional burden also for employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises who need stability and productivity instead of even more absenteeism,” commented Tony, a retiree who has lived in Sweden for three decades.
“It strikes me as being somewhat of a token policy that will have little positive impact in reality,” said a Swedish mother of two who would be eligible for the extra days’ leave but said she felt “unsure” about whether it was a good move.
Some respondents argued that the family week proposals were based on an outdated definition of family, including several who said that they felt “mostly positive” about the plans but questioned why the benefit would be limited to parents of young children, rather than those with parents to care for, or siblings, nephews, nieces or grandchildren to spend time with.
“Given that people can be families without children, and that families with children aren’t the only ones in need of improved work-life balance, I don’t understand why this proposal is so narrow in scope. However, such a week for everyone would be nice,” an American programmer, who asked to remain anonymous, commented.
“We without children also pay taxes and I think there should be a way to extend this benefit to everyone. Furthermore, parents in Sweden already enjoy a great parental leave benefit compared to many other countries” said a 33-year-old Mexican reader.
One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, was disappointed that little was being done to support people who want to have children but are unable to do so without medical support, noting that over the past year there have been severe shortages of donor sperm at Sweden’s publicly funded fertility clinics.
“This, along with absurd waiting times, has forced patients to seek care in the private sector or abroad even though they have the right to publicly funded treatment. It’s bad enough that patients are having to pay for private treatment because there isn’t enough capacity in the public sector. It just adds insult to injury that those taxes will go to support families with children,” the reader said.
And several readers suggested alternative policies that would improve their lives more effectively than the proposed extra days at 80 percent pay.
“I feel that work-life balance works very well today, with companies already being very flexible. I feel there are better things to focus on like for example the unpaid sick day. Or other areas like building up our basic infrastructure where everyone benefits, not just those fortunate to have kids,” said Mark, a 29-year-old from Ireland.
“I think the current parental and annual leave are generous enough,” said a 38-year-old reader from India, who has children in the four to 16 age group. “One shouldn’t need to take days off for work-life balance but rather focus on increasing productivity and flexibility for employees.”
“It’s unnecessary for the majority of people, I would prefer the money to be spent supporting the school system” said James, a Brit who will be eligible for the time off under the family week proposals.
Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey for sharing your thoughts. Please note that this was not scientific: we asked our readers to share their thoughts on the family week proposals, and closed the survey after we had received 75 responses. It was optional for respondents to share information about their age and nationality, and those who chose to share this information came from at least 21 different countries, and were aged between 22 and 60. The comments published here are intended as a representative sample of the responses we received.