MPIDR Working Paper
A study on policies and practices in selected countries that encourage childbirth: the case of Sweden
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2005-005, 20 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (March 2005)
This paper is a contribution to the "Consultancy study on population related matters: a study on policies and practices in selected countries that encourage childbirth" for the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Swedish family policies are not directly aimed at encouraging childbirth. Their main goal has rather been to support women’s labour-force participation and to promote gender equality. The focus is to strengthen individuals so that they are able to pursue their family and occupational tracks without being too strongly dependent on other individuals. The reconciliation of family and working life of women has been facilitated by (i) individual taxation, which makes it less attractive for couples to pursue gendered segregation of work and care, (ii) an income-replacement based parental-leave system, which gives women incentives to establish themselves in the labour market before considering childbirth, and (iii) subsidized child-care, which allows women to return to work after parental leave. Fertility has fluctuated during recent decades but, as in the other Nordic countries with a similar welfare-state setup, it has stayed well above the European average. The Swedish context clearly is conducive to such “highest-low” fertility. In this study, I show that institutional factors seem to be far more decisive than cultural ones in shaping childbearing behaviour, and demonstrate some specific impacts of family policies on childbearing dynamics.
Keywords: Sweden, fertility