puzzled by the Swedish disappointment over Daddyland

I’ve been researching paternity leave on a more formal level, trying to get a magazine pitch together based on this blog.  And what stuns me is the tone of disappointment from almost everyone regarding Daddyland.

To pick a random example, here is a story from the AFP in 2008 (the story is otherwise an excellent roundup on the topic):

Swedish fathers enjoy one of the most generous paternity leave policies in the world but few dads take advantage of the opportunity, with mothers in gender-equal Sweden still leading the charge in childcare.

Fathers take on average only 20 percent of the 16 months of paid parental leave offered in Sweden to either mums or dads, according to Statistics Swede—a skimpy average that has sparked a broad debate over how to encourage more fathers to take the paid time off and reduce inequalities in the home.

Ummm, hello?  Sweden has the most generous parental leave in the world, and men take more than 20 percent of it.  That percentage alone is good for second best in the world (behind only tiny Iceland), and if you calculate the gross number of days, it must be staggering.

Yeah, I get that progress has been slow, that women still struggle hard for equality in probably the most equal country in world history.  It sucks.  Sweden offered paternity leave in 1974 – the first country ever – and it’s only up to 20 percent almost four decades later.

But really.  We are talking about the most deeply held gender roles – the care of babies and young children.

So please, researchers and government officials and people in general, look outside Daddyland a bit – the other Nordic countries don’t get above 11 percent at best for paternity leave.  And don’t even glance at the rest of the world or, god forbid, the United States, one of four countries (soon to be three) without paid parental leave for moms or dads.

No reason to be complacent, but still, enjoy the success …  Daddyland is revolutionary.


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