Monday, December 19, 2011

Swedish parenting at its finest...

By Sandra...

And, in the latest news, in the country where paid maternity leave is sooooooo wonderful, here is an example of Swedish parenting at its finest:

Yes Sweden. The greedy-breedies love pointing at Sweden as an exemplar of leading edge social policy big wads of cash for breeders.

“Ooooh,” the breeders coo in unison, “in Sweeeeden mothers get two years paid maternity  leave!  If Sweden does it, so should Australia!” (eg <>)

Yep. What a rational and logical way to support a position. They do it, so should we!  Anyone who has studied policy analysis – or more correctly – has an ounce of common sense knows that just because a policy works in one jurisdiction does not mean that it will work in another.

Hang on.

Does the paid parental leave in Sweden actually work? Sure, it exists, but does it WORK? Does the policy achieve its objectives (other than a regressive redistribution of income from the childless working poor to the childed professional middle classes).

Well, what should paid maternity leave do? The greedy-breedies really want it only so that they can have their baby and pay off their mortgage without having to actually get off their newly stitched up behinds and getting back in the office. We know that already. But, in an effort to find problems to justify their preferred solution, the greedy-breedies claim that paid parental leave MUST be available to two years to address ALL kinds of social ills. Apparently paid maternity leave will allow or even encourage people to have a kid or two, facilitate mother-child bonding which – apparently – prevents problem-children/adolescents in the future (wow!), brings about equity for women….and unicorns and rainbows and rivers of chocolate.

Yep. Paid maternity leave is often presented as some kind of holy ark of the covenant that will catalyse gender equity, yet after 30 years of paid parental leave Swedish women are not equal to men in terms of earnings or representation in executive positions, the birth rate is not much higher than Australia’s and less than 18% of men bother to use their paternity leave. Meanwhile, working class Swedish women are better off on sick leave than going to work. As a social policy, the child-maker lobby can forget about the nebulous claims that somehow, paid parental leave is some magic panacea that will transform society into some kind of huggy-kissy utopia.  Sweden has the same problems with juvenile delinquency as Australia, the divorce rate is the world’s highest (despite marriage being more difficult to dissolve there than in Australia) and their suicide rate is higher than Australia’s. There has been one advancement for gender equity; incarceration rates of Swedish women has increased 50% over the last 5 years. It's probably not the kind of policy outcome that was in mind. And yes, perhaps none of this anti-social phenomena is linked at all to paid parental leave –  but no more so than spurious claims that very generous paid parental leave is the magical silver bullet that brings about a social utopia.

Sandra is a policy analyst who looks to bonafide evidence-based policy rather than faith-based solutions created to justify confected policy problems.

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