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Fathers’ Uptake of Parental Leave: Forerunners and Laggards in Sweden, 1993–2010



Sweden is often considered a forerunner in family change and developments towards less gendered family production patterns. In this study, we focus on recent developments towards more gender-equal sharing of parental leave in Sweden. We explore how fathers’ use of parental leave has changed over time before and since the turn of the century. As the parental leave benefit is individual and earnings-based, we examine how fathers’ individual socio-economic and demographic characteristics are associated with their parental leave uptake over time, to determine whether there are forerunners and laggards in recent family change. Multinomial logistic regression models were applied to data from national registers. Our study demonstrates a bifurcation in trends in recent decades. This is associated with the extension of reforms that reserve part of the leave for fathers, the so-called “daddy months”, but stretches beyond the impact of any such reforms. Taking a long leave of over two months was pioneered by better-educated residents of metropolitan areas and surrounding suburbs, as well as Swedish-born fathers. Young fathers, low-income earners and foreign-born fathers lagged behind in these developments. We regard the unstable labour market situation of the latter as a contributing factor in widening social inequalities in family-related behaviour.

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