Sol Juarez, Associate Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences

About the project

Sweden has one of the most generous and gender-equitable paid parental leave policies in the world, with couples being entitled to up to 480 days of paid leave per child until the age of 12. The parental leave benefits system has helped the country to address crucial societal challenges by facilitating increased participation of women in the labour market, thus promoting a dual earner family arrangement that contributes to more equitable participation in the labour market and in family life. Still, some aspects of the Swedish parental leave policy could also be responsible for the maintenance or even increase in social and health inequalities in society.

Purpose of the project

The purpose of this project is to assess the unintended health consequences of Sweden’s parental leave policy, while addressing the interplay between parental leave use and health, both before and after childbearing. Specifically, we aim to evaluate potentially adverse health consequences derived from three aspects of the policy: 1) the speed premium supplement, introduced to parents who have children in quick succession (i.e., 30 months' spacing between births) to compensate for a reduction in benefits as a result of already receiving a benefits allowance for their first child; 2) the introduction and expansion of parental leave days exclusively reserved for the father (the so-called Daddy quota); and 3) the strong work requirement for paid parental leave eligibility (of at least 8 months in employment before childbirth) that excludes or is less beneficial for groups with insecurity in the labour market, such as students, migrants or those who have suffered from illness. A particular focus will be placed on the examination of mental health and reproductive health, including maternal and child health outcomes, which may be most affected by parental leave policies.

This project will be conducted over four years by an interdisciplinary team of researchers, including social epidemiologists, demographers and sociologists. We will use a variety of advanced statistical modelling techniques. This project will contribute much needed knowledge to ongoing debates on parental leave policy reform by illustrating the ways in which parental leave policy can also act as health policy and by providing knowledge that can be used to help achieve Sweden’s public health policy goals of social and health equity for all.

Project team

Sol Juárez, Associate Professor (docent) (principle investigator, project leader), Stockholm University
Andrea Dunlavy, Researcher, Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University
Ann-Zofi Duvander, Professor, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Anders Hjern, Professor, Karolinska Institutet/ Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University
Srinivasa Katikireddi, Researcher, University of Glasgow
Eleonora Mussino, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Mikael Rostila, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University
Helena Honkaniemi, PhD student, Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University