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Livin' like a Swede
January 26, 2014 5:33 AM   Subscribe

Here's a video about the swedish part model (aka parental leave) and an intro to German Elternzeit (Parent's time). In Germany "both parents can claim parental benefits (...) the benefit is calculated at 65 percent of the parent's previous monthly salary, though it gets boosted slightly if they were earning €1,000 or less. (...)" ... "The parent intending to take time off work must apply seven weeks in advance, and must limit their periods of leave to two during the three years - but each period can be as long as they want." Here's the offical guide to working in Germany (PDF) by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
posted by mathiu (22 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clarification: the benefit is paid out for 12 months (if one partner goes into Elternzeit) or 14 months (if both take some time out/if you're a single mom/dad. So overall your job is secure for a time of 3 years (but you get paid for the afore mentioned 12/14 months..)
posted by mathiu at 5:36 AM on January 26


Things like this make me glad to be in Europe.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:39 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


This is clearly a fictitious country.
posted by sweet mister at 5:48 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Related map.
posted by sweet mister at 5:49 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


has Germany gone to all-day kindergarten yet? I remember that was a big issue last time I was there.

it's interesting to compare the female workforce participation rate around the world: high participation is probably one of the only similarities between Sweden and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(but Germany's participation rate is 6 points lower than Swedens...)
posted by ennui.bz at 6:02 AM on January 26


Also one benefit is that maternity/paternity leaves create lots of openings for rather safe 1-year positions. Often the first proper job after university is being replacement for someone at maternity leave, or replacement for someone who is temporarily stepped up in hierarchy to replace someone in parental leave. This availability of rather nice positions forces other entry jobs like internships to offer fair compensation too.
posted by Free word order! at 6:30 AM on January 26 [13 favorites]


There are times I think if only Brooklyn could be in Scandinavia we would solve several problems at once.
posted by spitbull at 6:44 AM on January 26


This is what it looks like when somebody actually thinks of the children.
posted by kyrademon at 6:46 AM on January 26 [12 favorites]


I was in a meeting yesterday and someone mentioned that they work with a lot of Scandinavian institutions and the parental leave model was actually disruptive for maintaining service, which was interesting because I had always heard of it as a good model for short term experience positions. I admit I got my job as a half-year maternity cover that became permanent and i love the idea of more parental leave, but I would be really curious to know if different industries have different problems with the timeframes.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:47 AM on January 26


It's a current proposal (in swedish) by Vänsterpartiet (the Left party) in Sweden to make this parental leave individualized in order to encourage a more equal distribution of between parents.

Currently, there is an incentive for both parents to take leave, but men still take less of it than women. "Individualized" in this context means that each parent gets X months of leave and these months cannot be transferred to the other parent (use them or lose them).
posted by beerbajay at 6:51 AM on January 26


disruptive for maintaining service

I live and work in Sweden. Yes, it is disruptive, but the entire society realizes that this is the cost you put up with for having policies that actually work to the benefit of both children and parents. Also, since many people have children at some point in their lives, they recognize that some day they will be the "disruptive" ones.

The leave system is actually kind of an interesting way for young people to get job experience in positions which they might not be able to. When someone goes on leave, their position is usually filled by a vikariat ("substitute"; think of the word "vicarious" or "vicar"). Since the employing company knows that the position will only be filled temporarily, they're willing to take greater chances when hiring which leads to more young people getting employment.

Recently, a semi-related and insidious trend has sprung up, which is to employ "trainees" (i.e. low or unpaid interns) at all forms of companies. Ostensibly this is because the companies cannot directly employ graduates so they offer "job training" and the "trainee" gets experience and contacts. In reality, of course, this is just an excuse to get un/low-paid labor with no real offer of a job at the end of it.
posted by beerbajay at 6:59 AM on January 26 [4 favorites]


(but Germany's participation rate is 6 points lower than Swedens...)

The Economist recently had a short but fascinating article about attitudes in Germany towards gender and work, and how they have regressed over the last twenty years or so towards a more "traditional" pattern, that men should work and women stay home. (I'm oversimplifying, of course, but from the numbers the article used Germany's change on this was striking.)
posted by Dip Flash at 7:08 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


I live in Sweden and with two small children I have some acquaintance with the parental leave here. Each child entitles the parents to 390 days of parental leave. The days are evenly divided between mother and father, but can be transferred between the two as necessary.

This is on top of a tremendous full time day care system (dagis) from about one year old (when the child can walk.)

The payment is sorta kinda based on your salary, but more precisely is based in your SGI (sick based compensation) which is capped out at the average national salary no matter how much you make. If you earn more than 36000 SEK per month (before tax) you lose money with this scheme.

It is hugely expensive and paid for by a 32% employers tax, the world's highest income taxes, and a 25% VAT on basically everything you buy. Unlike American progressives who only want to tax the rich, these heavy taxes are paid by EVERYONE and so people have a lot less disposable income - and literally no savings at all - in Sweden.

The dirty little secret is that this isn't at all socialism. In the 1970s when Sweden's industry was at it's peak and Sweden was per capita one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there was a need to get women into the workplace - not because of any wooly-headed ideas about equality - but because women can turn screwdrivers as well as men and they were needed in the economy. If you put your women to work you have to do something to make sure that they still have babies (or you end up like Germany relying on immigrants you with all the associated problems of that) and if they have babies you have to make sure that there is some place to put the kids while mommy is working.

It is a completely practical, pro-industrial growth, anti-immigration policy that can work in a tiny country of 9 million people who have deep cultural homogeneity and a strong national identity.

It will be interesting to see if the German model works.
posted by three blind mice at 7:59 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


It is hugely expensive and paid for by a 32% employers tax, the world's highest income taxes, and a 25% VAT on basically everything you buy

This is factually incorrect. It and the rest of the Swedish state are paid for by these taxes. Implying that Germany has to be like Sweden in order to successfully implement one policy that is similar to a Swedish one is a pretty weak argument.

people have...literally no savings at all - in Sweden.

Literally?

It will be interesting to see if the German model works.

It will be interesting. I'm not really sure what your comment tells us about whether or not it will work.
posted by howfar at 9:01 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Swedes have no savings?

Not the ones I know.
posted by spitbull at 9:28 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


employers tax

What tbm is talking about is the arbetsgivaravgift ("employer's fee"; link in swedish). This is paid by the employer as a percent of the employee's wages.

This pays for: The föräldraförsäkringsavgift ("parent insurance fee") component of the employer's fee is 2.6% of an employee's wages. So if I earn $50k a year, the company for which I work will pay $1300 for this.

no savings at all

Yeah, this is problematic. It's not so much that people have no savings, but that they don't amount to much in real purchasing power. Food and housing are both very expensive. Consumer goods have a 25% VAT which is regressive and tends to burden the poor.

There's a lot of uncertainty amongst the young people I know about housing and jobs. In the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of building of apartments by the regions/kommuns in Sweden which led, in some places, to a bit of a housing glut. Building slowed down and hasn't really been pursued by the state since then, which today has led to a housing crisis for young people. The state is currently run by a coalition of conservative parties which essentially want to implement the American model, i.e. it's not the business of the state to build; that's for private enterprise.

To get an apartment (to rent one) in Sweden you have to apply and wait in a queue (the idea is to be fair). Because there are so few apartments, people are unwilling to move or to give up their contracts if they move, so they sublet their apartments. So the people waiting in the queue must wait for years before they have a chance at a "first hand" contract. For students moving to a new city, or for immigrants like myself, this is horrible. We don't know where we are going to live in a year, and when we finally figure it out, there's no housing to be had. So there's a very lucrative business in second hand apartments and in renting out single rooms in your home/apartment.
posted by beerbajay at 9:51 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


> literally no savings at all - in Sweden

That's not what I'm seeing in this chart from the OCED. Am I misreading it?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:23 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


three blind mice:

It is a completely practical, pro-industrial growth, anti-immigration policy

This isn't really true. Back in the 70s, there was a large influx of workforce immigrants, primarily from Finland, but also southern Europe. The women's rights movement was strong in the late 60s and 70s, and they pushed for this model. The pressure for implementing parental leave and daycare always came from the left, and they were never immigration-critical. That said, the public child care is regarded today as essential in keeping Sweden competitive today, also by the present right-wing government.


Unlike American progressives who only want to tax the rich, these heavy taxes are paid by EVERYONE [...]

That statement could give the impression that Swedish tax rates are flat, which isn't the case at all. There was a time in the 80s when a person could end up with more than 100% marginal tax, so it would be a financial burden to get a raise. The Social Democrats lost an election over that, and those anomalies were corrected, but the tax still increases sharply with income.

No, the important difference is that income and wealth are already distributed more equally in Sweden than in the US. If you are have this distribution of wealth, it makes economic sense to tax rich people because there is a lot of money to extract from them. The corresponding curve in Sweden is much flatter, in part because of the progressive taxing and the wealth redistribution done by the state, in part because of the strong unions and the way wages are negotiated. The swedish far left sure wants even higher taxes on the rich, but it's an issue of equality more than economy.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 11:54 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Three Blind Mice wrecked by a corpse in the library. So doge.
posted by Yowser at 12:41 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


This is factually incorrect. It and the rest of the Swedish state are paid for by these taxes.

The 32% I mention is called arbetsgivareavgift - the employers "social fees" - which covers social costs including parental leave and healthcare. (Compare this to the 8% or so that US employers pay for Social Security contribution and you see why salaries are necessarily lower in Sweden.)

The rest of the Swedish state is paid for by a 28% income tax (kommunalskatt) on every kronor of income up to about 34000SEK per month and an additional 31% tax (riksskatt) on everything over this amount and the 25% Value added tax on all purchases (food and books a bit lower.) And the 24% tax on corporate profits for companies like mine that can't take advantage of tax dodges.

The women's rights movement was strong in the late 60s and 70s, and they pushed for this model.

That's certainly the myth, but the truth is much more pedestrian and profit-motivated. Sweden was one of the first countries whose industrialists recognised the waste of having 50% of the educated workforce staying at home.

That's not what I'm seeing in this chart from the OCED. Am I misreading it?

Thanks corpse in the library. That data, which I don't dispute, is a little bit misleading. In Sweden almost no one amortises their home mortgages -- which makes it look like you're saving a lot of money - but which means that your household debt burden never goes down. One of the big motivations for the current government's tax reductions was that state finances are in surplus and that the state is absorbing private savings - that could better go to things like reducing household debt.

All in all this is a fine system for a tiny, homogenous country with a Calvinist work ethic like Sweden. It will be interesting to see if this model scales up to a country the size of Germany.
posted by three blind mice at 2:41 PM on January 26


three blind mice:
It will be interesting to see if the German model works.

It will be interesting to see if this model scales up to a country the size of Germany.


You talk as though Elternzeit were something very new. The BEEG (Federal Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Law - Bundeselterngeld- und Elternzeitgesetz) has been on the books since 2006. It is part of a constellation of laws and regulations that support young parents -- The Mother Protection Law (Mutterschutzgesetz), the Part-Time and Term Employment Law (Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz,), the Mother Protection in the Workplace Regulation (Verordnung zum Schutze der Mütter am Arbeitsplatz).

How do you decide if something is working, or if it is scaling up? I don't know, but I can tell you how most working people in Germany see it: it's been scarcely over 7 years and by now, nobody can conceive of a society without it. You'd think the parental leave law had been on the books for decades (certainly some of the other laws I mentioned have been!).

So parents love it, and any notion of striking it is political suicide -- even the conservative parties understand this. They serve their electorate by pushing additional financial support for parents who do not send their children to state-funded daycare or kindergarten but take care of their children at home instead. Although similar support exists in Norway, Sweden and Finland, it has not been uncontroversial, because it tends to lead to reduced participation of women in the workforce, precisely the thing the parental leave law was intended to correct.

The problem as I see it is not parental leave -- it is enormously popular and is a major factor in the decision of people I know to start families -- but the fact that female participation in the workforce remains disproportionately low. It is an open secret in Germany that women are at a career disadvantage; women in prime child-bearing years are often passed over when applying for jobs, and employers tend to be inappropriately interested in job applicants' family status.

One way to level the playing field would be to force men to take a minimum portion of the parental leave. It would certainly help mitigate the career disadvantage that mothers have as a result of having to take months or years off of work.
posted by rhombus at 9:30 AM on January 27


The rest of the Swedish state is paid for by a 28% income tax (kommunalskatt) on every kronor of income up to about 34000SEK per month and an additional 31% tax (riksskatt) on everything over this amount and the 25% Value added tax on all purchases (food and books a bit lower.) And the 24% tax on corporate profits for companies like mine that can't take advantage of tax dodges.

You do realise that your initial misrepresentation is there for everyone to read, don't you? Your general comments about Sweden's high tax-burden have nothing to do with whether the specific policies being discussed are effective. No amount of attempted rhetorical legerdemain is going to alter that.
posted by howfar at 12:17 PM on January 27


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