The aim of the parental benefit scheme is to help parents to combine working life and family life. Thanks to the scheme, Norway tops European statistics on birth rates and participation of women in the workforce.
Norwegian parents may choose to take a total of 46 weeks of leave at 100 per cent pay or 56 weeks at 80 per cent pay.
The paternal quota works
Since as far back as 1977 fathers have had the right to share parental leave with mothers. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 1990s only 2-3 per cent of all fathers were taking advantage of this opportunity.
The paternal quota was introduced in 1993 to encourage more fathers to participate in caring for their child during its first year of life. Today 10 weeks of the parental leave period are reserved for fathers. If a father does not use his quota, these weeks will be forfeited.
Norway was the first country in the world to establish such a scheme.
The results have been striking. In 2008, 90 per cent of fathers used their paternal quota. Moreover, a growing number of men are choosing to take more leave than their quota. In 2008, 16.5 per cent of fathers extended their leave beyond the reserved 10 weeks, compared to 11 per cent in 2000.
Strengthening the role of fathers
The paternal quota gives men an opportunity to develop a stronger bond to their children from birth. The impact of this extends far beyond the paternity leave period. More and more, men are demanding equal parenting rights, for example in custody cases. A white paper on male roles and gender equality was published in 2009. It is the first of its kind in the world.
Debate on sharing leave
Parental leave is still a hot topic of debate. The Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud, Beate Gangås, has proposed that the parental leave period be divided into three, with one-third reserved for the mother, one-third reserved for the father and one-third to be used as desired. As of yet few political parties have shown their support for this solution.
There is, nevertheless, broad political agreement that the paternal quota is an excellent instrument for encouraging more men to take paternity leave. The quota was therefore extended from six weeks to 10 weeks in 2009.