After having arrived in Sweden, it’s not long before one is quietly, diplomatically, and modestly informed by a Swede (or an expat, wishing they were a Swede) of a few of the things that make their country a unique and special place to live.
One item that regularly makes an appearance on the top-five list of Swedishness, alongside the likes of ABBA, fika (“have you heard about fika?”), Volvo, and do-it-yourself furniture, is the country’s amazingly egalitarian welfare system. In particular, the generosity of Sweden’s paid parental leave scheme shines brightly like a beacon of aspiration for voting mothers – and fathers – the world over.
For each child in Sweden, parents get to divide 480 days of leave between them as they wish, receiving 80 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of 946 kronor (137 USD) per day for the first 390, and 180 kronor a day thereafter. What’s more, sixty days of leave is reserved for each parent, and if either take more than their minimum, both receive a “gender equality bonus” of 50 kronor per day. Not bad, is it?
Whilst women still take the majority of days, in 2012 men took on average 24 percent of all parental leave(1). Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see young fathers pushing around their blond haired, blue-eyed bundle in a remarkably practical but fashionable stroller, clutching a coffee (and the change from their 50 kronor equality bonus) in the other hand. Hence the affectionate term, “latte papa”.
Whilst Melbourne (my home town) may be the self-proclaimed epicenter of coffee snobbery in the world – a city where concerns about your skinny-soy-chai-latte’s temperature rate on par with those of global poverty – Sweden, I’m informed, ranks third in per capita consumption of humankind’s favourite stimulant(2). Only the Dutch and the Finns surpass it on the podium of caffeinatics.
It may not be long, however, before the latte pappas make a resurgence and drink Sweden back to the top. After all, combining coffee with paid parenthood isn’t far from every young father’s dream!