The working world has adjusted accordingly. Most companies seem to fill parental-leave vacancies with short-term contracts, and these seem to function as good tryouts for permanent employment. It all feels pretty organic in a globalized world of flat organizations and gender equality, of employees who are not locked into one assignment or skill set.
But there are deeper societal processes at work here, a shift of the very notion of Swedish masculinity. In a 2008 article in the journal Fathering, Anna-Lena Almqvist wrote that Swedish men have developed a “child-oriented masculinity.” Almqvist compared the attitudes of a selection of Swedish fathers with their French counterparts and found that, among couples with similar incomes, Swedish men emphasized the importance of parental leave and helping to raise their children. They also negotiated explicitly with their partners on child care issues. The French men did neither of these things.
This means that, according to Almqvist, the rise in Swedish paternity leave can be seen as a “modest change” to Sweden’s “hegemonic masculinity,” which is an overarching masculine ideal that most men once aspired to—think physical prowess, the big job, and lots of women.