I seldom discuss politics on this blog, but today I feel compelled to do so. The benefits for Swedish parents that choose to stay home on maternity or paternity leave are among the best in the world. We are guaranteed compensation of 80 percent of our salary up to a certain level for 390 days, to be shared between the father and the mother. That’s all very well. Now, on top of that, parents also get 90 days, called “garantidagar” (guarantee days), with a compensation of 60 kronor per day, so basically most Swedes (compensation depends on your salary) that give birth to a baby have a strong financial support from the system.
Now, the Swedish Government has suggested that the compensation during these 90 days shall be increased from 60 kronor to 180 kronor, but that will only apply for children born on 1 July 2006 or later. This means that the parents of a child born on the evening of 30 June will miss out on compensation of 10,800 kronor, about 1,150 euro.
The social democrats explain this choice:
– It would simply be too expensive to let this increase apply to everyone on parental leave. There is a risk that all parents would use their guarantee days even if they don’t really need it, says press secretary Anna Karin Wallberg.
Read that again, slowly. There is a risk that parents will exercise their rights, even if they don’t need it!
What a brilliant logic. But of course, this is not the entire story. In fact, the government saves about 600-700 million kronor per year because parents don’t use all their days in the parent’s insurance. Guarantee days make up between 50 and 100 million a year, according to RFV.
In the article from Dagens Nyheter it says that parents with children under 8 years old, have 30 million guarantee days saved. But don’t be fooled here, that’s the total figure. According to a report (pdf) by RFV in 2002, between 85 and 92 percent of all guarantee days get used up, so the argument that people will use 30 million guarantee days “they don’t need” is not valid. More than 9 out of 10 days are used by ordinary parents, just like the lucky ones who get babies after 1 July 2006.
That means that if 90 percent of all guarantee days would be used anyway, the only additional cost for the remaining 10 percent (3 million days) would be 540 million kronor (180 million + 360 million for the increase to 180 kr/day). I think that is a low cost for doing the right thing and not discriminate parents of children being born before 1 July.
(By now I figure you’ve guessed that me and my wife are having a baby in May this year.)