Swedish grandparents can be paid to babysit under new law

Swedish grandparents are entitled to paid parental leave this week, after the country enacted a pioneering new law aimed at extending childcare benefits beyond the borders of the child's family of origin.

Under the change, which came into effect on Monday, parents can now transfer part of their parental leave days to other caregivers, cementing Sweden's reputation as a global leader in progressive parental leave policies.

According to the Swedish Government's Social Security Agency, the law allows single parents to transfer up to 90 days of paid leave to other caregivers and a parental couple to transfer up to 45 days.

The law was approved by the Riksdag, Sweden's 349-seat parliament, last December.

Leo Gullbring, 65, a freelance copywriter from Lund, Sweden, who is expecting his second grandchild in August, said he plans to help his son in the nearby city of Malmö with childcare.

When asked what he thought of the new law, Mr Gullbring called it “fantastic” and praised Sweden's already generous welfare system, which has become “even better”.

This is not Sweden's first foray into innovative social services. Swedish citizens pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but in return they receive state-funded healthcare, free education up to university, and generous unemployment benefits.

The Nordic country of more than 10 million people also has some of the most expansive parental leave laws, granting 480 days of paid leave per child, divided between parents. During the child's first year, parents can take 30 days of that leave together.

Sweden’s guidelines are in stark contrast to those of the United States, one of the few Western countries that provides no paid maternity or parental leave at all.

Only federal employees and workers in a handful of U.S. states are eligible for statutory parental leave, making it an outlier compared to many wealthy countries.

“The Nordic countries that have very generous policies to begin with are becoming more and more generous and flexible, and we seem to be falling further and further behind,” said Richard Petts, a sociology professor at Ball State University and an expert on parental leave.

While parental leave policies in countries such as Sweden are considered the “gold standard,” around the world such generosity “is not realistic for the United States” because of resistance to higher levels of taxation, Professor Petts said.

Research has shown that maternity and parental leave programs tend to increase family health outcomes after childbirth, with long-term benefits for both the birthing parent and the newborn.

Professor Petts said Sweden's new, more comprehensive guidelines were likely to improve work-life balance in the country, particularly for single parents.

The new law, he said, “recognizes the growing complexities of balancing work and family.”

Christina Anderson contributed reporting from Stockholm, Sweden.

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