Gender-equal parenting and good conditions for children to grow up in, a review of parental insurance

An Inquiry will conduct a review of the rules for parental leave and parental insurance. The purpose is to identify problems and propose measures so that parental insurance can contribute to a greater extent to gender equality in the labour market and gender-equal parenting and can keep contributing to good conditions for children to grow up in.

Minister for Social Security Annika Strandhäll and parents.
Minister for Social Security Annika Strandhäll and parents. Photo: Mikael Sjöberg

Comment by Minister for Social Security Annika Strandhäll:

Why is the review of parental insurance being conducted right now?

"It is simply high time. Parental insurance has been in place for over 40 years, and although changes have been made along the way, society itself has changed quicker than the design of the insurance. By conducting a review, we will be able to see how the insurance needs to be changed to better enable modern and gender-equal working and family life. Everyone must have the same opportunities to use parental insurance regardless of whether they run their own company or are employed.

Women claim three quarters of parental benefit days and also carry out the majority of unpaid work in the home. They work part-time more often, have poorer career development, take more sick leave, and their pensions are 30 per cent lower than men's pensions. The Inquiry will examine how we can facilitate the use of parental insurance for various family constellations, and will analyse the need to simplify."

The Government chose to collect the views of referral bodies at an early stage. Why was that?

"In this work, attitudes and approaches need to change. A number of actors in society must take responsibility for this development. For this reason, we wanted to involve the referral bodies as early as the start-up phase. It is also a way for us to ensure from the very beginning that we do not miss any wise thoughts and important perspectives. Now we are ready to tackle this major and important task, and I am full of expectation ahead of the proposals that the Inquiry will submit."

The Inquiry will present its findings on 1 October 2017.

Opinion piece: Adapt parental insurance to suit modern working life

Committee terms of reference

An Inquiry will conduct a review of the rules for parental leave and parental insurance. The purpose is to identify problems and propose measures so that parental insurance can contribute to a greater extent to gender equality in the labour market and gender-equal parenting and can keep contributing to good conditions for children to grow up in. (Decision at a government meeting on 4 February 2016.)

Summary

An Inquiry will conduct a review of the rules for parental leave and parental insurance. The purpose is to identify problems and propose measures so that parental insurance can contribute to a greater extent to gender equality in the labour market and gender-equal parenting and can keep contributing to good conditions for children to grow up in. Parental insurance must be adapted to a modern labour market and its requirements, and provide conditions for a good balance between family and working life. It must also be designed to be effective regardless of the form a family takes.

The Inquiry is to submit proposals for a design of parental insurance that is fit-for-purpose, clear and easy to administer, that helps achieve the subsidiary objectives of gender equality policy concerning economic equality and an even distribution between parents of unpaid housework and care work, and that focuses on the best interests of the child.

The principle of loss of income is to remain one of the cornerstones of parental insurance.

In carrying out the assignment, the Inquiry Chair is to do the following:

  •  Analyse and propose measures needed to achieve an even distribution between parents with regard to parental leave, parental benefits and temporary parental benefit.
  • Analyse whether age limits for the right to parental leave, with or without parental benefits, are well-balanced and whether there is need for change.
  • In particular, analyse the conditions for and consequences of reserving further months for which a parent cannot transfer the parental benefit entitlement to the other parent.
  • Analyse and propose how to limit possibilities for parental leave with parental benefits so that a parent coming to Sweden with children can only use a limited number of days with parental benefits after the child turns two years old. The purpose of the limitation is to shorten the period before introduction in the labour market.
  •  Identify problems and examine possibilities for various family constellations to use parental insurance and propose changes as needed.
  • Survey conditions and opportunities for entrepreneurs and students to use parental insurance and propose changes as needed.
  • Analyse the need to simplify and, based on the various purposes of parental insurance, refine the regulatory framework to make it clear and easy for parents to use and to provide good conditions for effective and legally secure administration with good opportunities for control.
  • Consider the proposals' impact on coordination under Council Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 and take account of other EU legislative rules.

The remit includes drawing up necessary legislative proposals.

Committee report

An interim report is to be submitted no later than 31 October 2016 and the final report no later than 1 October 2017.

The Inquiry is to report the part of the remit related to changed age limits in parental benefits for children born abroad but who move to Sweden no later than 31 October 2016. The Inquiry is to present its overall report no later than 1 October 2017.

Background

Parental insurance plays a key role in realising objectives in financial family policy, child rights policy, labour market policy and gender equality policy. It promotes labour force participation by both parents, provides children with a possibility to be cared for by their parents and enables good living conditions for families with children. During the four decades since its introduction in 1974, parental insurance has developed to include a number of different insurance situations and in particular, parental benefits have become more generous with regard to the opportunity for longer leave from work.

The overall aim of parental insurance is to provide both parents with equal opportunities for compensation for loss of earned income when they are looking after a child and thereby make combining family and working life easier. Today, parental insurance includes numerous types of closely related yet independent support for families with children, such as parental benefits, temporary parental benefit and pregnancy benefit. In addition, the specified benefits constitute pensionable income, which forms the basis of income-based old-age pensions and for which national old age pension contributions are paid.

Parental insurance largely consists of work-related benefits, i.e. people who work in Sweden, as employees or entrepreneurs, are insured for parental benefits at sickness benefit level and basic level, temporary parental benefit and pregnancy benefit.