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Family-friendly life the Swedish way

Swedish income taxes are high compared with most countries. A large share goes into providing a work–life balance within society. The idea is that everyone contributes so that society can offer family-friendly solutions for everyday life.

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Dad’s turn to stay home with the sick child today.
Photo: Kristin Lidell/

Family-friendly life the Swedish way

Swedish income taxes are high compared with most countries. A large share goes into providing a work–life balance within society. The idea is that everyone contributes so that society can offer family-friendly solutions for everyday life.

State-subsidised childbirth

Women in Sweden usually give birth in hospital. The birth and the following hospital stay are almost fully tax-funded.

The particular conditions for childbirth vary a lot between hospitals. Some Swedish hospitals have adjoining ‘hotels’ – a less hospital-looking part of the hospital – where new mothers and their partners may stay for two or three days after a birth, when required, so that nurses can monitor the mothers and provide postnatal care for newborns.

Read more about healthcare in Sweden.

Parental leave – an opportunity to bond with your child

In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. This number is high by international standards and is perhaps Sweden’s most famous argument when it comes to being a child-friendly system.

Offering paid parental leave is one way to enable parents to combine work with family life. Having a child doesn’t mean the end of a career, merely a pause. And it’s not just about equality – on a national level it’s also about economy, about maximising the potential of the workforce and, by extension, increasing the country’s growth.

Life doesn’t have to be all work. It can also be hot chocolate in the sun.

Photo: OTW/

Gender equality on the agenda

Walk around any Swedish city or town and you’re likely to find fathers pushing prams and sharing coffee with each other while feeding their babies in cafés and parks. Yes, Sweden is home both to ‘latte mums’ and ‘latte dads’. Here, as one journalist put it, men can have it all.

In Sweden’s efforts to achieve gender equality, each parent is entitled to 240 of the 480 days of paid parental leave. Each parent has 90 days reserved exclusively for him or her. Should one of the parents decide not to take them, they can’t be transferred to the partner. Today, men in Sweden take nearly 30 per cent of all paid parental leave – a figure the government hopes to improve.

Read more about gender equality in Sweden.

Residents of Sweden pay for schooling through taxes. Most schools offer lunch as part of the school day.

Photo: Lena Granefelt/

Fully tax-funded schooling from the age of 6

Most children in Sweden go to preschool/nursery school (förskola). Parents often choose to go back to work when their child is around 18 months, so that’s usually when children start preschool. There is a maximum fee, which is usually about the same level as the monthly child allowance of SEK 1,250 (2019).

Residents of Sweden don’t have to worry about saving money for their child’s education: School for children aged 6 to 19 – from preschool class to upper secondary school/sixth form/high school – is fully tax-funded, most often including lunches.
The tax-funded education continues into university for students from the EU, but fees apply to students from outside the EU/EEA.

Read more about the Swedish education system.

Staying home with sick children

If you work in Sweden and need to take days off to care for a sick child, there is compensation through the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, which is available for children under 12 years. Children aged 12–15 require a doctor’s certificate.

Largely tax-funded healthcare

The majority of Sweden’s healthcare is funded through taxes. From the age of 20, a visit to the doctor will cost you between SEK 100 and 300, depending on where you live, while a specialist consultation costs a maximum of SEK 400. If you incur SEK 1,100 in fees in one year (a 12-month period, not necessarily a calendar year), a high-cost protection (högkostnadsskydd) scheme provides free care for the remainder of that year.

Before the age of 20, healthcare is essentially free of charge in Sweden, although it depends slightly on the county. Almost all dental care is free of charge until the day you turn 24.

What to read? There are millions of books for children and young people in Swedish libraries.

Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

Libraries and literature for children

Sweden has a strong literary culture geared towards children. Libraries offer children’s books in different languages and often activities such as painting, crafts and sing-alongs.

Sweden has also produced world-renowned authors like literary icon Astrid Lindgren and Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, both of whom penned classic children’s books.

Lindgren created perhaps the most iconic of children’s characters, Pippi Longstocking, and the legacy of the author extends well beyond just books. Places such as Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby, a town in southern Sweden, are Lindgren-themed attractions, with live performances and a host of other characters from her books, such as Karlsson on the Roof and Emil in Lönneberga.

Read more about Swedish children’s literature.

Hello horses! There’s a world beyond the concrete and noise of the city.

Photo: Alexander Hall/

Baby-friendly public areas

From pram ramps to playgrounds and dedicated park sections for children, Sweden has a lot of family-friendly public areas and features. Most shopping centres and libraries have nursing rooms for infants and changing tables in shared bathrooms.

Many libraries and museums also have a designated pram parking spot where you can comfortably park your pram or pushchair. When dining out, most restaurants will provide a high chair for babies and toddlers, and many also have changing tables in the toilets.

In some Swedish cities parents pushing infants and toddlers in prams and pushchairs can ride for free on public buses, boarding by using the large doors in the middle of the bus. Which means parents don’t have to leave their pram- or pushchair-borne child unattended to go to the bus driver and show their ticket.

Last updated: 21 February 2020