Critics decry paternity leave ‘attack’

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Norway’s Conservative Party has voted to remove a quota requiring fathers to take 10 weeks of parents’ combined paid leave from work when a child is born. Critics blasted the move, made at the party’s annual meeting this weekend, claiming it will set equality back at least 20 years.

“This proposal is a serious attack on fathers’ rights,” stormed Audun Lysbakken of the Socialist Left party. He also currently serves as the government minister in charge of family and equality issues.

Spokesmen for the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet, KrF) also were upset by the Conservatives’ vote in favor of repealing current provisions that seek to ensure that not just mothers stay home with infants. 

“There is no doubt that this proposal widens the gap between the Christian Democrats and the Conservatives in family policies,” said KrF spokesman Øyvind Håbrekke. He called the Conservatives’ move “naive and poorly thought out.” Other KrF officials said the repeal of paternity leave quotas for men meant  they could not sit in a government with the Conservatives.

Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande told news bureau NTB she was “shocked” that the Conservatives were trying to dilute paternity leave in Norway.

The Conservatives claim they merely want to give couples the “freedom” to decide how they want to share the 10 months of fully paid leave parents receive when a child is born.

The so-called “pappa perm” quota, extended to 10 weeks just last year, means that if fathers don’t take the leave, the couple will simply lose it. It’s been widely credited with making it more acceptable for men to take time off work to be fathers, and most men in Norway now take advantage of their paternity leave opportunity.

Siv Jensen of the Progress Party, which opposed the quota for fathers. was about the only party hailing the Conservatives’ vote. Since the Progress Party and the Conservatives currently hold around 47 percent of the vote in Norway, according to recent public opinion polls, they could push removal of the quota through parliament if they came to power.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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