Sweden has a reputation for being some sort of equal-opportunity paradise where men and women’s responsibilities are doled out equally. Although it does have the longest maternity and paternity leaves in the world, this doesn’t necessarily translate into equality. Swedish men still earn more than women, and so their income is essential to maintaining a household financially. The thing is, they’re also expected to help at home just as much as their partners. Slate contributor Jessica Grose explains why this is creating a lot of stress for Scandinavian fathers:
...how does that explicit, nationwide Swedish commitment to gender equality play out for parents in the workplace?
A new study published in the journal Work and Occupations tries to answer that question. Authors Leah Ruppanner and Matt L. Huffman look at individuals in 31 countries around the world—including Sweden and the U.S.—to see how male and female workers in different cultures report what they call “nonwork-work” interference and “work-nonwork” interference. “Nonwork-work” interference is when family demands impinge on your job; “work-nonwork” interference is when work demands spill over into your family time.
Here’s where things get interesting. Swedish men report more “nonwork-work” and more “work-nonwork” interference than Swedish women do. So they’re more likely to feel that the demands of their families spill over into their jobs and the demands of their jobs spill into their family time. In the U.S., the results are more gendered. Men report that their job responsibilities are more likely to interrupt their home life, while women report their home responsibilities are more likely to get in the way at work.
I asked Dr. Ruppanner, a sociology professor at the University of Melbourne, why Swedish men are so stressed by the conflicting demands of work and family. Because of Sweden’s commitment to gender equality at a state level, “Swedish men may not be able to opt-out of childcare responsibilities while at work,” like men in the U.S. or say, Turkey do, Dr. Ruppanner wrote in an email. Swedish women may take a harder line on making their male partners contribute at home because they feel they have societal support.
Men still make more money than women do in Sweden, and so their jobs are seen as more important for a family’s bottom line, hence the work spillover into family life. And though there is a great deal of leave available to Swedish men—men and women in Sweden get a combined 480 days of parental leave at 80 percent of their salaries but with a cap; two months are just for moms, and two months are just for dads; the rest of the leave can be allocated between the parents any way they choose—women still take 75 percent of the parental leave allocation. So when kids are young, men are generally working more, but also expected to do a lot at home.
So what is a Swedish dad to do? According to Grose, the answer may lie in a “more radical feminism.” If women were earning as much as men, she argues, then they’d really be on equal playing fields both at home and at work.
As for America, well, let’s just say figures show there’s still a long way to go on both fronts.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi
ChrisGoldNY (CC BY-NC 2.0)