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Equality in the Workplace may mean letting men have it ALL.

05 July 2011

Though some women may lament having to balance work and family, many others wouldn’t have it any other way.  Most of the working women I know would agree that having a career which is both fulfilling and financially empowering generally outweighs the sacrifices they are making on the life balance side of the equation.

But women don’t have to be the only ones to “have it all”.  Sweden which boasts one of the world’s most generous paid parental leave schemes also has one of the highest rates of women in the workforce.  In 2009, of Sweden’s 2.7 million women 76% were employed – as compared with 86% of Sweden’s 2.8 million men.

In Sweden’s case both working parents receive 16 months paid leave per child with ten paid days leave for dads when the baby is first born.  The 16 months is shared between the two parents and those who decide to “stay at home” receive approximately 80% of their gross salary for the first 390 days.

But getting men to stay at home wasn’t easy.  When the policy was first introduced in 1991, only 6% of Swedish men took advantage of it.  In 1995 to boost participation rates the Government launched a campaign to encourage more men to participate in the program.   This included one particularly macho image of a well known Swedish body builder with a baby perched on his biceps! Interesting…..

Today, some 85% of Swedish fathers participate in the scheme.  In a NY Times report published in June of this year (“In Sweden, Men can have it all”), Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden’s European affairs minister, was reported to have said: “Machos with dinosaur values don’t make the top-10 lists of attractive men in women’s magazines anymore.  Now men can have it all — a successful career and being a responsible daddy,” she added. “It’s a new kind of manly. It’s more wholesome.”

One of the best quotes from the article however came from Sofia Karlsson, a police officer and the wife of Mikael Karlsson, who was reported to have said she found her husband most attractive “when he is in the forest with his rifle over his shoulder and the baby on his back.”



  • Ann Margulis

    Ann Margulis 7 years ago

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  • Anushika de A Gunawardana

    Anushika de A Gunawardana 8 years ago

    Given the chance and some thinking space men will surely warm to the idea that it is indeed more wholesome to them personally and more beneficial to the family overall to be part of a similar scheme. It is the legislative aspects and the approach employers take that would be interesting to watch should the debate take place here in Australia.

  • Malini Raj

    Malini Raj 8 years ago

    Agree totally - flexibility in the workplace and paid parental leave shouldn't be a women's domain. It's important that men also have the opportunity to spend quality time with their kids and bond with them more that the couple of hours when they get home from work before the children are in bed (if they are lucky). We need to get rid of the stigma that men have to be the breadwinners and the career driven one in a relationship. If both parents can have the opportunity to stay at home for a period it will foster a more cohesive and balanced family unit.

  • Jeannene ODay

    Jeannene ODay 9 years ago

    Agree!! Intuitively, having Daddy at home for a large block of time in a child’s life seems to me like a good thing. Although women naturally bond with their children, for men developing that bond requires a good deal more interaction – an opportunity afforded to very few full time working Dads. Finally, one wonders if encouraging more men to participate in paid Parental leave could in fact result in a change in the balance of women staying in the workforce to pursue a long term professional career or more importantly the perception of women who chose not to.

  • Amanda Day

    Amanda Day 9 years ago

    Wow, this is great, wouldn't it be great if we had this policy (and the uptake) in Australia