Scandinavia Is Supposed to Be a Parental Paradise. But It's Not – Kveller
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Scandinavia Is Supposed to Be a Parental Paradise. But It’s Not

Moms in the U.S. often hear about the parental paradise that is Scandinavia. In Denmark, for example, parents get 52 weeks of leave after the birth of a child, and, once mom goes back to work, public day care is partially subsidized by the government. In Sweden, parents are entitled to a whopping 480 days of paid parental leave.

But while these benefits sound amazing, they don’t mean that moms don’t face difficult dilemmas when it comes to choices surrounding their careers and childcare, or that sexism in the workplace has been eradicated. Because that’s totally not true.

A recent Slate article examined at a new study in Denmark found that the situation is more nuanced than first appears. Take the pay gap — something that also exists in Denmark. What’s the deal?

Looking at salaries between 1985 and 2003, the study — published by the National Bureau of Economic Research — found that once women became moms, their salaries decreased by 30 percent — even though they were previously making as much as their counterparts.

As the study suggests, for women, having kids and taking a break — even if only a year — sets moms back. So the pay gap in Denmark may not be initially a problem before kids — unlike, um, here in the U.S., — it does suggest that the burden of parenthood is still unequal.

Another study published in 2016 at The Journal of Labor Economics in the University of Chicago Press found the same pattern in Sweden.

Moreover, Princeton economist Henrik Kleven, one of the authors of the Denmark study, points out, “60 percent of adults in Denmark and Sweden believe that women with school-age children should work part time.”

These attitudes — and lack of pay — seem to pass from one generation to the next. As Kleven told Slate: “In traditional families where the mother works very little compared to the father, their daughter incurs a larger child penalty when she eventually becomes a mother herself.”

For those of us here in the U.S., these studies provide some insight on the work we also need to do about our ideas of gender roles and norms — and how these biases are at the root of workforce inequality. 

Image: Hana Jang

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