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#special issue: Becoming a Mother

Caroline Malmstrom /// A short introduction to the conditions of Swedish children and their mothers

During the 20th century Sweden went from
being an almost all-blonde, agricultural kind
of society to a multicultural society based
on duty and education. A reduced number
of newborn babies, less people living in
confined quarters and increased economical
resources for the households were some of the
results. Accordingly, the Swedish people have
more space and more money but reproduce
themselves less than before. Also, fewer
babies are born today in families situated in
Stockholm compared to the rest of the country
(1.79 to 1.83 per family).

During the 20th century Sweden went from being an almost all-blonde, agricultural kind of society to a multicultural society based
on duty and education. A reduced number of newborn babies, less people living in confined quarters and increased economical
resources for the households were some of the results. Accordingly, the Swedish people have more space and more money but reproduce themselves less than before. Also, fewer babies are born today in families situated in Stockholm compared to the rest of the country (1.79 to 1.83 per family).

During the 1930’s a motherhood insurance was introduced to Swedish women. In 2007 the parental benefits have been extended
and guarantee both mothers and fathers the possibility to combine work with having children. For example can parental allowance
be paid out for 480 days and depends on the parents earlier income. The child allowance, introduced in 1947, is paid every month until the quarter of the child’s 16th birthday. Today it is SEK 1050 and further child allowance supplement can be paid out if you have more than one child. Regarding gender equality, one can note that 80% of the parental leave-days are used by the mother and only 36% of the parental allowance when a child gets sick is used by the father.

As the number of people in traditional working class occupations and the number of peasants were reduced the number of civil
servants grew extensively. This has also resulted in increased economical resources for families with children. But there are still
large differences between different kinds of families. Today, the median wage for partners living together with children is SEK 157 0
per person and year, and for couples living together without children it is SEK 219 0. Single mothers with children has a median
wage on SEK 109 0. The proportion of women working has also been increased. 80% of the Swedish women were working in 2005, compared to 60% in 1970. To be economically supported by your husband isn’t very common. Though Sweden has seen a sort of lobbying for the housewife’s status the past few years, only 2% of the Swedish female population between 20-65 years are taking care of the household full-time. In 208 the right-wing government will introduce a care allowance for those parents who want to take care of their one to three year old baby in their own home full-time. The allowance is up to SEK 30 and it is the municipality who decides whether its inhabitants can benefit from it. This has been a controversial issue in Sweden and critics have pointed to potential negative consequences for overall gender equality. Today, 84% of the one to six years old children attend municipal
child-care, then they start school at the age of seven.

Sweden is the third most gender equal country in the world according to UNDP’s gender equality index of power, influence and
income. How this relates to the family and the household differs depending on who you ask. Research shows that women perform the same amount of paid as unpaid work, and men perform twice as much paid work as women do. When Swedish women have children it is common to change from full-time to part-time work after coming back from parental leave. Women who gave birth in 1996 lost 25% of their income when returning to work, probably mostly because of this decision. The Swedish system is in many cases a great support for families with children, but as statistics Elisabeth Landgren Möller and Gun Alm Stenflo remarks problems still exists.

Because of part-time work, women fall behind in wage development and since the career of the male part of the relationship often is given priority the gender equality at home becomes undermined. Pregnant women also seem to be discriminated by employers, and because of high requirements from working life the spare time with the children are very limited. Landgren Möller and Alm Stenflo propose a solution where it is advantageous to have children when working life isn’t so stressful. Another proposition that caused the “childcare debate” came from Swedish writer and researcher Nina Björk: “Six hours working day for all parents and a special prohibition towards fathers with small children working full-time.” The question is how, and if, the Swedish people want this to change?

 

Sources: The Swedish Government, the Swedish Equal Opportunity Ombudsman and SOU 2001:55; Barn och ungdomars välfärd
(governmental inquiry). All of the statistics are collected from the Swedish Statistics database, https://www.scb.se

Thanks to sociologist Ph. D Marie Evertsson at Stockholm University for comments and input.

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