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The Nordic countries were the first to introduce family policy measures to promote parental equality. Parental leave quotas for fathers are a striking example, which many other countries have followed. The use of such leave has progressively spread in Swedish society. Four out of five Swedish-born fathers now exercise this right, but what about fathers from other countries? Do immigrant fathers adopt the behaviour of Swedish-born fathers? What effect does time spent in the country have on leave use? This article answers these questions with exhaustive register data of residents in Sweden between 1995 and 2010.

1Sweden has a relatively large immigrant population, a universal welfare system with residence-based benefits (including for those not born in Sweden), and a comparatively gender-equal family policy. Previous studies have used immigrants’ parental leave use as one of the indicators of success or failure of family policies in reaching gender and social equality (Tervola et al., 2017) as well as an indicator of integration and participation in the receiving society (Mussino and Duvander, 2016). This study contributes to this field by investigating immigrant fathers’ use of parental leave for their first child in Sweden. The issue of immigrant fathers’ uptake of parental leave is particularly well suited to assess the integrative aspects of family policies because it unites aspects of gender and social equality (social equality referring to both equality between the Swedish-born and immigrants, and between socioeconomic groups) (Neyer, 2017). Immigrant fathers’ leave use is thus a fitting measure of integration, as it reflects labour market participation and acceptance of gendered parental norms.

2Approximately 80% of all fathers in Sweden use parental leave before the child turns two years old (Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2017). Even though Swedish family policy strongly emphasizes gender equality, there are major differences in leave use between groups of fathers, not least between fathers of different origins (Duvander and Eklund, 2006; Duvander and Johansson, 2012). As the immigrant population is increasing sharply (Statistics Sweden, 2015), it is crucial to learn more about the factors associated with immigrant fathers’ leave use.

3Swedish parental leave includes 480 benefit days per child, of which 390 days are paid at about 80% of previous earnings, and 90 days are paid at a flat rate. Parental leave is job-protected and can be used until the child is eight (age 12 for children born in 2014 and after). The benefit is individual: half the days are the mother’s, and half are the father’s. The benefits cannot be used at the same time, with a minor exception introduced in 2012. [1] If one of the parents wants to use more than half the leave days, the other has to give his or her express consent. However, a few months are reserved for each parent and cannot be transferred. These reserved months are commonly called the “daddy’s quota”, even though the mother has a quota of the same length. The reservation of time to each parent started with one month in 1995, a reform that was successful in increasing fathers’ leave use (Duvander and Johansson, 2012); fathers’ leave use has also increased since the introduction of a second reserved month in 2002. However, even today, mothers take about three-quarters of all leave days (Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2017). Since 2016, three months are reserved for each parent, and the topic of gender-equal leave is a priority on the Swedish political agenda.

4A study by Mussino and Duvander (2016) has shown that immigrant mothers use more parental leave during the first year after their child’s birth but fewer days in the second year, compared to Swedish-born mothers. With time in Sweden and an improved labour market position, immigrant mothers increasingly use the leave as Swedish-born mothers do.

5However, knowledge about immigrant fathers’ use of parental leave is limited. A few studies indicate that they are over-represented among non-users of parental leave and that there is heterogeneity by country of origin (Duvander and Eklund, 2006). However, in the 1990s, immigrant fathers who used leave seem to have taken more days than Swedish-born fathers (Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2011). Thus, in modelling parental leave use, it is important to keep in mind the more heterogeneous use among immigrant fathers. It is also likely that patterns of use change over time as the composition of the immigrant group changes. We also know that immigrant and Swedish-born fathers have reacted differently to the introduction of the reserved months (Duvander and Johansson, 2014).

6This article aims to go further than previous studies by investigating not only the difference between immigrant and Swedish-born fathers’ use of parental leave but also the differences between groups of immigrants. We focus particularly on the duration of stay in Sweden over the period between 1995 and 2010, when both the norm concerning leave use and the situation of immigrants changed considerably in Sweden.

7As in many other developed countries, employment rates of immigrants in Sweden have been lower than those of their Swedish-born counterparts. In 2013, only 56% of immigrants of working age (16–64 years old) were employed, compared to 77% of Swedish-born people (the differences between men and women was only one percentage point for the Swedish-born but five percentage points for immigrants) (Statistics Sweden, 2015). These are important predictors of parental leave use, as the benefit is primarily earnings related. To be eligible for this benefit, parents have to be employed for eight months before childbirth (Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2008). Otherwise, parents receive a flat rate that is dramatically lower (in the 1990s, it was 60 SEK [Swedish Kronor] per day, or about 6 euros; today it reaches 250 SEK per day, or 25 euros). In addition, temporary employment may not be protected during leave and can thus entail an important obstacle to using it.

8In this study, we explore the following research questions:

  1. To what degree do fathers from different countries of origin use parental leave, compared to Swedish-born fathers?
  2. Do immigrant fathers increase their leave use with time in Sweden?
  3. Did immigrant (and Swedish-born) fathers’ leave use change over the period 1995 to 2010?
  4. What factors are associated with immigrant fathers’ leave use?

9We are trying to determine how country of origin and socioeconomic characteristics of the father and the mother, as well as place of residence and time period, facilitate or hinder parental leave use. We expect to find differences in leave use between immigrant and Swedish-born fathers, not only because immigrants have limited economic resources but also because knowledge and dissemination of information about the leave system may be lacking in immigrant communities. We also expect to discern some variation in leave use between immigrant fathers by different durations of stay in Sweden. Further, we expect individual characteristics of the mother to have an impact on the fathers’ leave use.

10To further the understanding of immigrants’ parental leave-use patterns, we begin by describing the social welfare system for parents in Sweden, and show how economic integration is a key factor in using family benefits.

I – Fathers’ parental leave use

11Fathers’ parental leave use is not only a reliable indicator of the integrative effect of family policies; it may also reduce the gender gap in labour market participation (Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs, 2016). Additionally, fathers’ participation in childcare has been associated with positive cognitive outcomes for offspring (Schober, 2015), family stability (Allen and Daly, 2007), and continued childbearing (Duvander et al., 2010).

12Over time, fathers’ share of parental leave use has gradually increased in Sweden, from around 1% in the 1970s to approximately 25% today (Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2016). Previous research has addressed fathers’ use of parental leave in Sweden on both the individual and institutional levels. Higher income is associated with increased leave use for both a mother and a father, but the relationship for fathers is curvilinear, indicating that the fathers with the highest income use slightly less leave (Duvander and Johansson, 2012; Sundström and Duvander, 2002). In addition, fathers with a higher education (university or post-secondary qualification) use more leave. Fathers also use more leave if their partners have a higher education (Hobson et al., 2006).

13The introduction of the first reserved month had a strong effect on fathers’ uptake of parental leave, whereas the effect of the second month was somewhat more modest (Duvander and Johansson, 2012). Although the first month (introduced in 1995) promoted a more equal leave use among fathers, creating a norm of using one month’s leave for fathers, the second month (introduced in 2002) increased leave use among some fathers, but the group of immigrant fathers was not affected as much. One likely reason for this is the lack of stable labour market attachment and thereby income in this group, which leads to a low benefit while on leave (Duvander and Johansson, 2014). Other research has also claimed that some fathers (irrespective of the country of origin) may have more restrictions in taking leave than others, not least depending on their workplace (Haas et al., 2002; Bygren and Duvander, 2006). Overall, economic constraints seem to be the main reason that limits fathers’ parental leave, at least among the indicators readily at hand for quantitative analyses. Given that immigrants might face more obstacles in the labour market during their initial years in Sweden than Swedish-born people with similar profiles (Bevelander and Irastorza, 2014), they may encounter more restrictions in becoming eligible for the earnings-based parental leave benefit. Consequently, they may have less economic incentive to use parental leave. However, during the period following arrival in a new country, the choice to use (or not to use) parental leave may also be influenced by gender-specific parental norms and expectations from the family policy of the country of origin. Furthermore, it may be that the information deficit concerning rights to such leave is largest during the first years in a new country.

II – Data and method

14To address our research questions, we use data from the Sweden over Time: Activities and Relations (STAR) population registers that cover the entire population living in Sweden. Individuals enter the register at birth within the country or upon immigration. Swedish population registers record all demographic events by date. Children are linked to parents using a personal identification number if the parents are or have been Swedish residents. We also have access to yearly information on socioeconomic characteristics, such as level of education and income, as well as social insurance benefits, including parental leave benefit days. Note that the income includes not only one’s labour market earnings but also any unemployment benefits obtained through social insurance.

15Data on parental leave days are collected annually and are related to the parent, rather than the child for whom the leave is used. In order not to confuse parental leave for different siblings, we focus on couples’ common first-order child [2] born in Sweden. [3] To measure parents’ leave for the same amount of time, we focus on children born in December. [4] As parents often use most of the leave during the first year after a child’s birth (Swedish Social Insurance Agency, 2016), we follow children for two years. Fathers who had a second child in this two-year interval are not considered in order not to confuse parental leave use for different children. [5] Previous studies have followed the same approach (Tervola et al., 2017; Mussino et al., 2017). The period investigated is 1995 to 2010.

16We use multinomial logistic regression to investigate the length of parental leave use among immigrant fathers, with different characteristics taken into account. The outcome is sorted into three categories of leave use: 0 days; up to the quota (30 days until 2001 and 60 days thereafter); and more than the quota. We present the relative risks of taking 0 days and taking more than the quota, with a reference group of fathers who took up to the quota. We start by presenting descriptive figures on fathers’ parental leave use before putting forward the estimated results from the multivariate models. The description of the sample is represented in the Appendix Table.

III – Results

1 – To what degree do fathers from different countries of origin use parental leave, compared to Swedish-born fathers?

17Immigrants’ country of origin may reflect some unobserved heterogeneity in the reception and integration in the host society as well as the cultural and gender norms of their home society (Tervola et al., 2017). Our descriptive results confirm differences in fathers’ parental leave use by country of origin. Figure 1 indicates that it is common among Swedish-born fathers to use more than the quota, whereas taking no leave at all is more prevalent among immigrant fathers of all origins.

Figure 1

Distribution of fathers by country of origin and length of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Figure 1

Distribution of fathers by country of origin and length of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from Sweden over Time: Activities and Relations (STAR).

18There also exist differences in father’s leave use according to the country of origin. [6] Immigrants from Asian and African societies are less likely to use parental leave. About 60% of fathers from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries do not use any parental leave. They are closely followed by fathers from Turkey, African countries, and Iran, with more than 50% not taking any parental leave. In contrast, fathers from European, American, and Oceanian societies, whose education and skills to be used on the labour market resemble those of Sweden at various degrees, use more parental leave. All else equal, fathers from the former Yugoslavia stand out for their use of up to the quota in about 40% of the cases, which is the highest percentage among this use category. It seems that the greater use of parental leave among the European, American, and Oceanian immigrants – relative to those from Asia and Africa – can be attributed to their further integration into the Swedish labour market. Immigrants from Europe, the Americas, and Oceania have been more gainfully employed than those from Asia and Africa (Statistics Sweden, 2015).

2 – Do immigrant fathers increase their leave use with time in Sweden?

19The analysis of immigrant fathers’ parental leave by duration of stay in Sweden reveals a sign of adaptation to the pattern shown by Swedish-born fathers. Figure 2 shows that newly arrived immigrants generally do not take parental leave and that leave use increases with time spent in the country. However, even among immigrant fathers who have been in Sweden for ten or more years, the percentage using 0 days is double that of Swedish-born fathers.

Figure 2

Distribution of fathers by time since immigration and length of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Figure 2

Distribution of fathers by time since immigration and length of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from STAR.

3 – Did immigrant (and Swedish-born) fathers’ leave use change over the period 1995 to 2010?

20Swedish-born fathers, in line with the literature (Duvander and Johansson, 2012), gradually increased their leave use over the observed period (see Figure 3). In 2002, the definition of the quota changed from one to two months, which explains the small negative peak. In comparison, immigrant fathers did not increase their leave use as much over the same period. It seems that leave use among immigrant fathers only slightly increased, and fluctuated due to the small numbers in some of the groups. The percentage of fathers taking more than the quota is the highest among those who have been in Sweden for a longer period of time. Nonetheless, the gap between Swedish-born and immigrant fathers became larger at the end of the period. The results imply a larger change among Swedish-born fathers, which indicates increased possibilities for taking parental leave, whereas the change is much less among immigrant fathers. Note especially that the group of newly arrived immigrants did not change their use during the observed period, even though the composition of immigrants by country of origin changed during the study period.

Figure 3

Percentage of fathers who took more parental leave than the quota, Sweden, 1995–2010

Figure 3

Percentage of fathers who took more parental leave than the quota, Sweden, 1995–2010

Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from STAR.

4 – What factors are associated with immigrant fathers’ leave use?

21To provide a deeper understanding of immigrant fathers’ leave use, we estimated multinomial regression models to predict the fathers’ risks of using 0 days or more than the quota, versus a reference group of fathers taking up to the quota. Figure 4 shows the relative risk ratios (RRR) from both the null model and the full model, where we control for sociodemographic and economic characteristics of both the parents. In the null model, we control only for duration of stay in Sweden. It is clear that differences in leave use between immigrant and Swedish-born fathers diminish as immigrant fathers’ time spent in the country increases. Similar results have been found for immigrant fathers in Finland (Tervola et al., 2017), immigrant mothers in Sweden (Mussino and Duvander, 2016), and even in other sociodemographic behaviour, such as childbearing (Andersson, 2004). Nonetheless, immigrants who have spent more than ten years in the country still have a notably higher RRR of using 0 days, compared to Swedish-born fathers. The risk of using more than the quota is somewhat lower for immigrant fathers, including those who have stayed in Sweden for at least ten years.

Figure 4

Relative risk ratios (RRRs) of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Figure 4

Relative risk ratios (RRRs) of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Note: Use of 0 days or more than the quota, compared to the quota (reference), during the first two years after first birth. Reference category: Swedish-born fathers.
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from STAR.

22When we control for individual characteristics of the father and the mother (see Table 1), the differences in taking 0 days by duration in Sweden persist, even if they diminish. Newly arrived immigrants who became fathers in Sweden were still more likely to have taken 0 days than those who had been in Sweden longer. Individual characteristics seem to count less when we look at leave use of more than the quota, where the results from the null and full models are almost the same.

23Even if our main interest is to analyse whether the use of parental leave days differs between Swedish-born and immigrant fathers, we would still like to highlight the importance of individual socioeconomic characteristics (e.g. father’s income quintile [7] and age [8]) and in general how women’s characteristics (e.g., mother’s income quintile, country of origin, [9] and age) impact the decision to take parental leave. Our estimation for fathers’ income shows that low earnings significantly increase their likelihood of taking no parental leave, and decrease their likelihood of taking more than the quota. Furthermore, fathers with the highest income tend to take no leave. Our results also demonstrate that the mother’s characteristics play an important role in the father’s uptake of parental leave. First, for all fathers, having a Swedish-born partner significantly decreases their likelihood of taking no parental leave, whereas it does not make much difference as to whether they use more than the quota. Second, when the mother has low income, the father is more likely to take no leave, probably because his income is more important for the household’s economy. Furthermore, fathers with a partner with high income are more likely to take more than the quota, probably because these mothers have stronger incentives to return to work.

Table 1

Relative risk ratios (RRRs) of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Table 1
0 days More than the quota All Immigrants All Immigrants Background Swedish born Ref. Ref. Immigrant less than 2 years in Sweden 1.83 *** Ref. 0.67 *** Ref. Immigrant 2–4 years in Sweden 1.68 *** 0.96 0.58 *** 0.88 Immigrant 5–9 years in Sweden 1.42 *** 0.81 * 0.73 *** 1.05 Immigrant 10 and more years in Sweden 1.35 *** 0.73 ** 0.77 *** 1.06 Country of origin (Ref. Nordic) Former Yugoslavia 0.52 *** 0.52 *** Eastern Europe 0.72 * 0.90 Other Europe 0.81 1.06 America and Oceania 0.92 1.13 Africa 0.94 0.88 Iran 0.91 0.88 Iraq 0.81 0.79 Turkey 0.95 0.83 Middle East 1.10 1.01 Other Asia 0.84 1.06 Partner’s background (Ref. Swedish) Immigrant background 0.69 *** 0.74 *** 0.99 1.13 Woman’s age (Ref. 26–30) 15–25 1.09 * 0.96 0.81 *** 0.91 31–35 1.12 ** 1.11 1.05 1.03 36+ 1.17 ** 1.19 0.98 0.91 Man’s age (Ref. 26–30) 15–25 1.10 * 0.99 0.87 *** 0.93 31–35 1.17 *** 1.04 1.10 ** 1.15 36+ 1.33 *** 1.13 0.97 1.09 Woman’s income (Ref. middle) Very low 1.53 *** 1.75 *** 1.52 *** 1.91 *** Low 1.26 *** 1.40 ** 1.07 1.13 High 1.02 1.00 1.53 *** 1.61 *** Very high 1.21 *** 1.17 2.34 *** 2.25 *** Man’s income (Ref. middle) Very low 4.23 *** 3.80 *** 0.80 *** 0.71 ** Low 1.84 *** 1.62 *** 0.88 *** 0.83 * High 0.94 0.96 0.95 1.04 Very high 1.40 *** 1.37 * 0.95 1.14 Residence (Ref. large/medium-sized cities or large municipalities) Metropolitan areas 1.39 *** 1.15 * 1.44 *** 0.95 Suburb to metropolitan areas 1.11 * 1.03 1.12 ** 1.03 Industrial municipalities 0.74 *** 0.70 * 0.68 *** 0.67 * Rural/small/sparsely populated municipalities 1.05 1.03 0.77 *** 0.65 * 0 days More than the quota All Immigrants Al l Immigrants Calendar years (Ref. 1995) 1996 1.10 0.80 0.90 1.23 1997 1.00 0.61 * 0.97 0.71 1998 1.10 0.79 1.01 0.93 1999 1.03 0.60 ** 1.29 *** 0.91 2000 1.05 0.60 * 1.48 *** 1.22 2001 1.23 ** 0.78 1.69 *** 0.98 2002 0.71 *** 0.55 ** 1.00 0.86 2003 0.75 *** 0.59 ** 1.24 ** 1.00 2004 0.79 ** 0.50 *** 1.41 *** 0.85 2005 0.81 ** 0.63 * 1.40 *** 1.14 2006 0.81 ** 0.67 * 1.52 *** 1.16 2007 0.88 0.62 ** 1.53 *** 1.07 2008 1.07 0.80 1.78 *** 1.14 2009 0.95 0.54 *** 1.73 *** 1.16 2010 0.91 0.58 ** 1.72 *** 1.17 Constant 0.34 *** 1.28 0.64 *** 0.63 Number of observations 40,713 6,962 40,713 6,962 Pseudo R2 0.094 0.1016 0.094 0.1016

Relative risk ratios (RRRs) of parental leave use, Sweden, 1995–2010

Note: Use of 0 days or more than the quota compared to the quota (reference), during the first two years after first birth.
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from STAR.

24Additionally, we ran a model with only immigrant fathers in order to investigate whether the roles of the country of origin and of other independent variables remain in the immigrant subsample. Compared to immigrants from Nordic countries, fathers from the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe had a lower risk of taking 0 days, but no other differences appear to be significant. Consistent with our results from descriptive statistics, fathers from the former Yugoslavia had a lower risk of taking more than the quota. Instead, they tend to take up to the quota. This might reflect the fact that both men and women from the former Yugoslavia are more likely to be active in the labour force (Bevelander and Pendakur, 2012; Collic-Peiskers and Tillbury, 2006, 2007). Therefore, they follow the “normative” model of parental leave use.

25For immigrant fathers, having a Swedish-born partner not only decreased their likelihood of taking no leave, as previously observed from the full model, but also significantly increased their likelihood of using more than the quota.

26The estimates for calendar years show that immigrants are responsive to policy change concerning use of up to the quota but not for more than the quota. The changes in trend for taking a leave of more than the quota increased significantly after the introduction in 2002 of the second “daddy month” only in the model where Swedish-born are also included. This indicates that, after the introduction of the second daddy month, the rise of parental leave use of more than the quota is mainly contributed by Swedish-born fathers rather than immigrant fathers.

27Finally, living in a metropolitan area did not have the same association with parental leave use for immigrant fathers as in the model of all fathers. One possible reason can be attributed to the residential segregation of metropolitan areas of Sweden.


28Parental leave in Sweden is available to all resident mothers and fathers. Since its introduction, most mothers have made use of it, and over time the great majority of fathers have done the same. Use of parental leave can be seen as an indicator both of gender equality when shared in a couple, and of social equality if used by all subgroups of parents. It is also an indicator of integration, as it is closely related to individuals’ situations on the labour market. It reflects not only labour market integration but also knowledge about family benefits and the possibilities to use them. This paper explores fathers’ parental leave use, in particular that of immigrant fathers in Sweden during the period 1995–2010.

29When interpreting the results in this study, one should be aware of a possible selection effect due to the fact that only leave use after first births is under study. We are unable to predict whether fathers’ use of parental leave changes or remains the same for subsequent births. However, earlier studies on Swedish fathers’ parental leave indicate that their use changes little by birth order (e.g. Sundström and Duvander, 2002).

30The descriptive statistics and the multinomial logistic regression models confirm that immigrant fathers do take parental leave but not to the same extent as Swedish-born fathers do. Immigrant fathers are more likely not to use any leave, even when time in the country and income are considered. However, the disparity between fathers from different countries of origin manifested in the descriptive finding mostly disappeared in the full model. We interpret these differences as attributable to economic integration and different degrees of labour market attachment. In addition, the length of parental leave use increased among immigrant fathers over time, even if the rate of their using more than the quota did not increase.

31Our most important finding, therefore, is that immigrant fathers increased their leave use with time spent in Sweden, indicating an adaptation to the leave-use pattern of Swedish-born fathers. We conclude that immigrant fathers’ leave use is connected to time spent in Sweden, to their own characteristics, and to those of the mothers of their children. The economic stability of both parents is particularly important, and indicates that fathers outside the labour market often refrain from using parental leave. However, it can be argued that generous benefits for parents outside the labour market would have negative effects on integration (Vikman, 2013). A labour market policy that is more inclusive of migrants would strongly incentivize use of paternal leave. However, if the mother has high income, both Swedish-born and immigrant fathers take longer leave, indicating similar negotiation within the couple over childcare and paid work in Swedish families with different backgrounds.

32Finally, some unobserved factors may also be at play. For example, unmeasured vulnerability on the labour market, fathers’ level of knowledge about the Swedish parental leave system, attitude (and attitude changes over time) toward gender roles within the family sphere may all influence the likelihood of taking parental leave as well as the length of its use. Future research should explore in more detail the causes of the differences in parental leave use between different groups of fathers.

33Acknowledgements: This research was supported by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland (TITA project, decision number 293103); the Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe - Spade (grant registration number 349-2007-8701); the Swedish Initiative for Research on Microdata in Social Science and Medicine (number 340-2013-5164); and the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare (FORTE), grant number 2016-07105.


Table A.1

The data distributions and row percentage by parental leave use

Table A.1
0 days (%) Up to the quota (%) More than the quota (%) Total (absolute values) Background (Ref. Swedish born) 21.0 36.4 42.6 33,751 Immigrant less than 2 years in Sweden 64.0 20.7 15.3 855 Immigrant 2–4 years in Sweden 56.7 25.1 18.2 1,669 Immigrant 5–9 years in Sweden 48.6 27.2 24.1 1,491 Immigrant 10 and more years in Sweden 39.8 30.9 29.3 2,947 Country of origin (Ref. Sweden) 21.0 36.4 42.6 33,751 Nordic 45.7 26.2 28.1 783 Former Yugoslavia 42.7 39.1 18.2 1,018 Eastern Europe 43.8 30.0 26.1 566 Other Europe 40.1 27.4 32.5 680 America and Oceania 43.5 26.2 30.3 634 Africa 55.5 24.0 20.6 622 Iran 51.8 24.8 23.4 415 Iraq 59.4 23.2 17.4 770 Turkey 56.8 25.6 17.6 340 Middle East 61.7 20.1 18.2 413 Other Asia 46.7 25.9 27.3 721 Partner’s background (Ref. Swedish) 44.3 27.3 28.4 7,312 Immigrant background 21.7 36.5 41.8 33,401 Woman’s age (Ref. 26–30) 34.3 37.9 27.8 11,958 15–25 21.2 35.6 43.1 15,112 31–35 22.1 31.1 46.9 9,757 36+ 25.9 32.0 42.2 3,886 Man’s age (Ref. 26–30) 36.2 37.3 26.4 7,176 15–25 22.8 37.6 39.6 14,089 31–35 21.8 32.2 46.0 12,289 36+ 27.7 31.6 40.7 7,159 Woman’s income (Ref. middle) 38.4 31.4 30.2 13,389 Very low 29.1 40.0 30.9 3,373 Low 21.0 44.9 34.1 7,682 High 17.1 37.1 45.8 8,138 Very high 16.5 26.7 56.8 8,131 Man’s income (Ref. middle) 53.6 25.5 20.9 8,621 Very low 27.8 36.9 35.3 7,675 Low 14.4 40.7 44.9 8,142 High 13.2 39.8 46.9 8,145 Very high 18.0 32.0 50.0 8,130 Residence (Ref. large/middle-sized cities or large municipalities) 28.5 26.1 45.4 9,609 Metropolitan areas 24.0 33.3 42.6 6,118 Suburb to metropolitan areas 25.1 36.8 38.0 18,745 Industrial municipalities 21.6 47.3 31.1 2,809 Rural/small/sparsely populated municipalities 27.3 41.3 31.5 3,432 0 days (%) Up to the quota (%) More than the quota (%) Total (absolute values) Calendar years (1995) 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 30.4 38.0 31.7 33.1 37.5 29.3 30.6 37.6 31.7 30.9 36.9 32.3 27.3 34.9 37.7 25.7 33.4 40.8 27.1 30.5 42.4 22.6 42.1 35.3 21.8 38.5 39.7 22.1 35.8 42.1 22.7 35.4 41.9 22.7 34.0 43.3 23.8 33.6 42.6 25.3 30.5 44.2 24.9 30.9 44.2 24.6 31.2 44.2 2,273 2,315 2,160 2,113 2,289 2,290 2,325 2,470 2,545 2,738 2,783 2,655 2,840 2,866 2,982 3,069

The data distributions and row percentage by parental leave use

Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from STAR.


  • [1]
    In 2012, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency introduced the possibility for parents to take 30 days at the same time in the first year of the child, but they cannot use the quota at the same time; these days have been called “double days” (see
  • [2]
    Twins are excluded from this study due to different parental leave benefits for parents with twins.
  • [3]
    We focus on fathers who had their first child born in Sweden. Population register includes information on children born outside Sweden if the children migrated to Sweden at some point in their lives. However, it does not have information on children who do not follow their parents to Sweden (Andersson, 2004). Statistics Sweden (2009) shows that only 1.6% of foreign-born women between the ages of 20 to 40 had a biological or adopted child who did not co-reside with them in Sweden. This confirms that the number of migrants that leave their children behind in the home country is rather limited for parents in the reproductive ages.
  • [4]
    We ran two different tests. First, we looked at the take-up rate for all births and controlled for month of birth of the children. Second, focusing on the quota, we concentrated on different months. Both analyses are consistent.
  • [5]
    As a robustness check, we ran a model including and controlling for the additional births during the two follow-up years. The differences between the models are negligible.
  • [6]
    We distinguish for the main prevalent countries of origin and aggregate the others by geographical areas.
  • [7]
    Fathers’ income is measured by quintile (five levels) and is used as a proxy for labour market participation, with “very low” representing a low labour market standing and “very high” a strong labour market standing.
  • [8]
    Age is a proxy for experience in the labour market.
  • [9]
    Having a native-born spouse might indicate a better knowledge of the Swedish welfare system and longer time in the country.

This study aims to investigate immigrant fathers’ use of parental leave for a first child in Sweden from 1995 to 2010. The issue of immigrant fathers’ uptake of parental leave is particularly well suited to assess the integrative aspects of family policies and for studying immigrants’ integration because it reflects labour market participation and acceptance of gender-equal parental norms. Using data from Swedish population registers, we find that immigrant fathers do take parental leave but not to the same extent as Swedish-born fathers do, and they do not respond equally to policy changes. Our most important finding is that immigrant fathers increase their leave use with time spent in Sweden, indicating an adaptation to the leave-use pattern of Swedish-born fathers. We also find that individual income, as well as the mothers’ characteristics, are strong determinants of parental leave use.


  • parental leave use
  • immigrant fathers
  • Sweden
  • adaptation
  • gender equality

Recours au congé parental chez les immigrés pères d’un premier enfant en Suède : la durée passée dans le pays compte-t-elle ?

L’objectif de cet article est d’examiner entre 1995 et 2010 le recours au congé parental chez les immigrés pères d’un premier enfant en Suède. Cela permet notamment d’évaluer dans quelle mesure les politiques familiales permettent de favoriser l’intégration, car cela reflète la participation au marché du travail et l’acceptation des normes d’égalité en termes de parentalité. À partir des données des registres suédois, cette étude montre que les pères immigrés utilisent le congé parental, mais moins que les pères natifs de Suède, et répondent de façon inégale aux changements de politiques familiales. Cependant, la longueur du congé utilisé par les pères immigrés augmente en fonction de la durée de leur séjour en Suède, ce qui révèle une adaptation aux comportements des pères natifs. Par ailleurs, les revenus ainsi que les caractéristiques de la mère sont des facteurs déterminants du recours au congé parental des pères immigrés.


El recurso al permiso parental de los inmigrantes padres de un primer hijo en Suecia: ¿la duración de la estancia en el país ejerce una influencia?

Este artículo examina el recurso al permiso parental de los inmigrantes padres de un primer hijo en Suecia, entre 1995 et 2010. Se trata, en particular de evaluar en qué medida las políticas familiares favorecen la integración pues dicho recurso refleja a la vez la participación en el mercado del trabajo y la aceptación de las normes de igualdad en el dominio de la crianza de los hijos. El análisis de los registros suecos muestra que los padres inmigrantes utilizan el permiso parental, pero menos que los padres nacidos en Suecia; además responden de manera desigual a los cambios de política familiar. Sin embargo, la duración del permiso utilizado por los inmigrantes aumenta con la de su estancia en el país, lo cual muestra una adaptación a los comportamientos de los padres nativos. Por otra parte, las rentas y las características de la madre influyen sobre el recurso al permiso parental de los padres inmigrantes.


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Eleonora Mussino
Demography Unit, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Correspondence: Eleonora Mussino, Demography Unit, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, SE-10691, Sweden.
Ann-Zofie Duvander
Demography Unit, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Li Ma
Karlstad University, Sweden.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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