Today’s got me thinking about things Sweden does really well (bear with me):
1. Kopparberg – Delicious, dangerously-drinkable cider that has been the foundation of many a drunken summer afternoon.
2. Ikea – Despite an average visit taking 18 months off your life, how else would us working folk furnish our homes? Not forgetting their meatballs. Jam + meat = heaven.
3. Parental leave: 480 days – most paid at 80% of your normal wage – 90 of which are exclusively for the dad.
NINETY days. That’s at 80% pay and can be taken any time before the child is eight. In the UK paternity leave is one or two weeks at statutory pay, or £140 a week, to be taken within 56 days of birth.
Luckily my lovely employers gave me full pay for two weeks, otherwise I’d have had to take annual leave. I imagine there’s tons of fathers around the UK who are forced straight back to work following the birth of their child, unable to provide for their new family on the measly amount the government deem appropriate.
‘Sweden has higher tax rates’ I hear you shout at your phone/computer/printed out copy of this blog. Yes, they do and it would likely cost you a pretty Krona to sup on a Strawberry and Lime Kopparberg at the local pub. But these are taxes that genuinely go to providing a better society – from longer parental leave to more support for parents and heavily subsidised daycare. Not to mention the (pretty much) free healthcare and education.
This isn’t me telling you all that we’re moving to the land of August Strindberg and Greta Garbo. But as I forced myself out of my warm cosy house into the cold and dark streets this morning, reluctantly abandoning a teary wife who’d just endured an impossibly long hard night with Albie, our five-week-old who refused to sleep and wet his baby-grow twice, I couldn’t help thinking that we should be looking towards Scandinavian countries – all of which constantly feature in the list of happiest countries in the world – to improve every aspect of our society, especially this crucially important first year of a baby’s life.
Imagine how much better the quality of care would be for a child who has both parents at home for the first three months? How many more mothers would stick at breastfeeding if their partners didn’t have to go straight back to work? How many fathers would have a deeper, life-long bond with their children if they were given a more meaningful period of time with them at the start of their lives.