75 Pivotal Public Policies: Sweden’s Paid Paternity Leave

In the first half of the 20th Century a number of countries introduced some state payments and limited job protections for new mothers. However, in most places it remained common-place for working women to be fired on becoming (visibly) pregnant. It was not until the 1970s that countries, initially in Europe, started routinely to guarantee new mothers the right to paid maternity leave.

Sweden was a pioneer in this respect, and in 1975 it extended its maternal leave guarantee to include fathers. In 1974, just 0.5% of parental leave in Sweden after the birth of a child was taken by men; 40 years later, men accounted for 25% of the nation’s total parental pay. Other countries have slowly been following its lead.


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