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The politics of parental leave policiesChildren, parenting, gender and the labour market$
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Sheila Kamerman and Peter Moss

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781847420671

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847420671.001.0001

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Sweden: individualisation or free choice in parental leave?

Sweden: individualisation or free choice in parental leave?

(p.227) Fourteen Sweden: individualisation or free choice in parental leave?
The politics of parental leave policies

Anders Chronholm

Policy Press

In 1974, the development of the Swedish parental leave policy was begun. The introduction of leave policy in Sweden was seen as an example of strategic actions from different political institutions. This chapter argues that political institutions not only act but also create cultural norms that influence public opinion. The development of Swedish parental leave policy showed how an academic elite can produce a theoretical basis for political decisions. Sweden was the first country to introduce parental leave. This could be explained as a result of the academic and political debates in the country in the 1960s. These debates led to the adoption of new ideas among leading politicians. New ideas about equality emerged wherein both women and men were deemed significant in the role theory, making men part of the ‘problem’. Gender role and gender equality eventually emerged in the parental leave policies of Sweden. In this chapter, the three main terms that illustrate the changing political focus in the country are discussed: the focus on ‘maternal policy’ during the beginning of the century; the ‘population policy’ during the 1930s; and the ‘family policy’ during the 1950s. One of the most important changes in Swedish parental leave since its introduction in 1974 was its individualisation. The Family Policy Committee regarded gender equality in the use of parental leave as a long-term measure that should be based on free choice and negotiations inside families. From the introduction of the second individualised month in 2002 to the radical proposals in the inquiry of 2005, the Social Democrats have shown that individualisation of parental leave has become part of Social Democrat family policy.

Keywords:   parental leave, Sweden, gender role, gender equality, maternal policy, population policy, family policy, individualisation

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