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Would you like 90 weeks of paid parental leave?

IF you're sick of the childcare drop-off and rushing to the office with vomit on your shirt, prepare to hate the "Latte Papas".

Or move to Sweden: the world's best place to be a dad.

In a week in which the Turnbull government has made complicated deals on childcare and welfare reforms, a 60 Minutes story showcasing the Swedish government-funded paid parental leave scheme will leave Australian families green with envy.

Under the scheme, parents - mums and dads - are encouraged to take up to 90 weeks paid parental leave.
For 78 weeks of that, they are paid at 80 per cent of their salary. Then, it reverts to the minimum wage. And they can use it at any time until their child turns eight.

“It’s changed the culture,” say the Latte Papas of Sweden’s generous parental leave provisions.
“It’s changed the culture,” say the Latte Papas of Sweden’s generous parental leave provisions. Channel 9

They can split the leave however they like, but to encourage fathers to take it, three months of it is offered to men on a "use it or lose it" basis.

That's resulted in the rise and rise of the "Latte Papas": the stay-at-home dads who are embracing the scheme at a rate of 90 percent, reporter Peter Stefanovic discovers.

The Swedish experience, where pram-pushing dads are the norm rather than the exception, is in stark contrast to Australia, where the primary carer is given 18 weeks parental leave at the minimum wage. For dads, it's two weeks.

Swedes Erik Hertsius and Jonas Frid aren't smug about their situation, more mystified that it doesn't exist in Australia.

Erik is taking his second round of paid parental leave: six months off work to take care of daughter Gertrude while his wife returns to work, while Jonas is taking a year to raise his daughter.

Erik Hertsius with daughter Gertrude.
Erik Hertsius with daughter Gertrude. Channel 9

Erik cheerfully agrees the government has dangled an attractive carrot to make stay-at-home dads the norm. "It has changed the culture," he says.

Fellow Latte Papa Jonas (who admits he doesn't actually usually drink coffee as a rule) reacts with surprise when he discovers the Australian entitlements.

Both plan to have more children, they say, because "the system helps you" - right down to government-run childcare for all at the price of $50 a week when parents do return to work.

Aussie Dad Luke Grindal, who lives in Sweden with wife Hanna, tells Stefanovic the fact Australians could spend in one day what Swedes spend in a month on childcare "puts stress where it's not needed".

Critics, point to the fact Sweden has one of the highest tax rates in the world, and ask what's in it for those without children, but the Latte Papas seem untroubled.

It might seem a system Australia could only dream about, but Professor Marian Baird tells Stefanovic it's not impossible.

Australians pay more than enough tax to have a similar system, she says "but our system needs overhauling".

"We have to decide we want to support parents at work, integrate childcare and parental leave policy," she says, outlining a shift in thinking which on the surface seems so very simple, it's almost ... child's play.

60 Minutes airs on Sunday night on Channel 9 at 8.10pm

Topics:  editors picks parental leave sweden

News Corp Australia


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