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Between 22 January 2019 and 1 October 2019 she was Minister for Social Security.

Between 27 July 2017 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for Health and Social Affairs

Between 3 October 2014 and 26 July 2017 she was Minister for Social Security.

Ministers on this page who have changed areas of responsibility

Between 22 January 2019 and 1 October 2019 she was Minister for Social Security.

Between 27 July 2017 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for Health and Social Affairs

Between 3 October 2014 and 26 July 2017 she was Minister for Social Security.

“Adapt parental insurance to suit modern working life”

Published

DN Debatt, 4 February 2016.

Inquiry terms of reference. The parental insurance system needs to be modernised. It needs to be adapted to better suit entrepreneurs and students and its use facilitated for various kinds of family constellations. Progress towards more gender-equal sharing of parental insurance must be speeded up. The insurance system must also be easy to use.

On 4 February, the Government appointed an inquiry to review the entire parental insurance system. The goal is to present proposals before the end of this electoral period for an updated parental insurance system that is adapted to modern working life and a modern and gender-equal family life. This is the first time in ten years that a major review is being conducted and perhaps the first time ever that it has been done using such a broad approach.

Having children is a major life event. It is overwhelming, profound and involves a completely new piece in the puzzle of everyday life. The parental insurance system was established in 1974, when the politicians of the day did something very courageous. They introduced a whole new insurance system so that society would make it possible for parents – both women and men – to combine working life and family life.

They system has now been in place for over 40 years. Much has happened since that year when electricity was rationed in Sweden due to the oil crisis, Richard Nixon resigned as US president in the wake of Watergate and Abba's song Waterloo won the Eurovision Song Contest. We want parental insurance to continue being an important form of insurance for both the individual and society, so we must be willing to allow it to be changed.

Naturally changes have taken place along the way. The insurance system has been expanded, compensation levels have been adjusted and months have been reserved for each parent. The fact remains, however, that the society we live in today – and the idea of the kind of society we want to live in tomorrow – has changed more rapidly than the insurance system. It doesn't just cover a few years while children are very young. Most people use it until their child is 12 years old, and some even longer – in other words it affects a large portion of children's lives and parents' professional lives. With this in mind, it is even more important that the system fits with our personal and working lives, today and in the future.

To achieve this we must review the insurance system, many parts of which are good, to see where it needs to be improved. Based on the challenges we see, the inquiry has five focus areas.

In parallel with the work of the inquiry to bring about a modern parental insurance system, attitudes and approaches need to change to ensure a more gender-equal labour market and more gender-equal parenting. Several actors in society must take responsibility for this development. Communication and dialogue will be an essential part of the inquiry's work.

Increased gender equality

Women take three quarters of parental benefit days – as many as four out of every five days during the child's first year of life – and around 60 per cent of temporary parental benefits. One in five fathers of children born in 2009 had not taken out a single day by the child's fourth birthday. Progress is moving too slowly. We also know that the division of parental benefits between parents differs depending on income, education levels, etc. This uneven division has major repercussions on income, labour market position and health. The gender pay gap is around 15 per cent, while the gender gap in pensions is as large as 30 per cent. Women carry out the majority of unpaid work in the home, work part-time more often, have poorer career development and take more sick leave. Two thirds of those on sick leave are women, and ill health accelerates while children are young, particularly after the second child is born. We also know that it is not just the time that parental benefits are taken out that is unbalanced; women also take more unpaid leave than men and are therefore absent from the labour market for a longer period of time.

Consequently, the inquiry has been tasked with proposing measures to achieve an equal division of parental benefits and parental leave, and in particular analysing the conditions for and consequences of more reserved months.

Confronting a modern labour market

Much has also happened in the labour market since the 1970s. More and more people have temporary employment of various kinds until increasingly later in life. More people are self-employed or combiners (people running a business parallel to their job), and on average they take less parental leave than people who are employed. Everyone must have equal opportunities to use parental insurance regardless of whether they have a permanent contract, a fixed-term contract or are self-employed. The inquiry's task is consequently to examine the challenges posed by working life on the possibility of taking parental leave, with particular focus on the conditions for entrepreneurs and students. The inquiry will also investigate the normative impact of the design of the parental insurance system, in society and in the labour market.

An insurance system for today's family constellations

Families can take many different forms, but when the parental insurance system was designed, it was still based on the idea of a nuclear family with two co-habiting parents. Today, we know that more than one in every five children grows up in another kind of family constellation. There are both nuclear families and non-nuclear families. There are permeable families and blended families, families with one parent and families with more than two parents. There can be a difference in having one or several children at the same time. The inquiry has therefore been tasked with investigating the possibility of making it easier for different family constellations to use the parental insurance system.

A clear insurance system that is simple to use

Parental insurance includes a number of different forms of insurance. The flexibility of the system offers an array of opportunities, and there have been various reasons for the changes made to it over the past 40 years. But for those wanting to use the system, it is not always easy to understand how it works or can best be used. The inquiry has therefore been tasked with analysing the need to simplify the system. The goal is that it should be easier to plan one's life and leave using parental benefits, and to identify the situations in a child's life when parental insurance can make it easier to combine gender-equal parenting with work.

The common theme – the child's perspective

A common theme throughout is the child's perspective. The child's right to secure conditions to grow up in is central in designing family policy as a whole and the parental insurance system in particular. The principle of the best interests of the child must serve as a guide for the entire inquiry.

The politicians of 1974 were courageous, and we must be as well. We look at our society today and we want to make changes. We want to see a more gender-equal labour market and a more gender-equal private life, where there is also a more equal division of unpaid work. We want to see that children have equal rights to their parents, regardless of their position in the labour market or their family constellation.

If we see this – while also seeing that this is not the case today – then it is our responsibility to do what we can to make change happen. This is why the appointment of this inquiry is an important step. I am full of expectation ahead of the important task this inquiry will carry out and the proposals it will present.

/Minister for Social Security, Annika Strandhäll

Ministers on this page who have changed areas of responsibility

Between 22 January 2019 and 1 October 2019 she was Minister for Social Security.

Between 27 July 2017 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for Health and Social Affairs

Between 3 October 2014 and 26 July 2017 she was Minister for Social Security.

Ministers on this page who have changed areas of responsibility

Between 22 January 2019 and 1 October 2019 she was Minister for Social Security.

Between 27 July 2017 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for Health and Social Affairs

Between 3 October 2014 and 26 July 2017 she was Minister for Social Security.