The Swedish Green Party just had their party convention last week, and they want to increase paternity leave drastically. From their election platform:
We want parental leave to be divided into three parts, where each parent obtains one part and with the third part at their free disposal. This increases the opportunities for men to stay at home with their children.
This is not a popular option. Opinion polls show that up to 85 percent of Swedes do not want to increase the number of days allotted only for fathers. It used to be 30 days, not it is 60 days. I can’t get the math straight, since the Green Party wants to increase the leave. But at the current level, 33 percent of the days would be 160 days.
Talk about social engineering!
Here is where the Swedish political culture veers far from the American. Sure, Americans debate where the line of society versus individual should be drawn – see the endless debate over smoking bans in restaurants. And, sure, many American politicians probably privately talk about the need to force social reform down people’s throats – I can just imagine the talk in the Obama White House about health care reform.
But in Sweden, the line is way way way farther towards society. And so a Green Party spokesman can say this in Dagens Nyheter (I took great liberties to get the sense of the translation):
“When it comes to their own needs, most people want to decide for themselves. But this is a situation for us to take political responsibility. If we want more equality, we can’t wait for company boards or the market to make it happen. We must dare to implement policy decisions we believe in and not hide behind the fact that people want to do what they want to do, ” said Green Party spokesman Peter Eriksson.
Can you imagine an American politician saying this?
I also don’t know how I feel about it. Paternity leave is good. Increasing the daddy days to 60 from 30 almost surely made Swedish fathers take more leave, get more involved. What does it take to make a society more equal? I am all for smoking bans, by the way.
But, still, I choke a bit when I read that quote.