Thursday, March 27, 2008


All this waiting business has made me downright feisty, and when I feel feisty, I can get political. Let's do a little comparison, shall we?

(General Disclaimer: I know, I know -- it's totally unfair to compare the U.S. and Denmark in many ways. The current U.S. population is just over 300 million, while Denmark clocks in at five and a half million. Still.)

One thing that continues to blow my mind on a second-to-second basis is how these two countries address parental leave. Of course it all comes down to money, but there just has to be more to it than that. There has to be. Our friends here ask us about the American practices all of the time, and I'm starting to think it's because they just can't believe it, so they keep asking, even though they can repeat what we're going to say along with us. From what I've researched, here is what each nation offers:

Parental leave, while mandated (kind of) by the government, is administered by one's employer. Mothers are legally entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave at the birth (or adoption) of a child, and she is legally entitled to 6 more weeks of unpaid leave after the initial 6 weeks, should she choose it. If she opts to take more leave at this point, her employer is legally allowed to terminate her and open up the position for interviews. Fathers are legally entitled to no parental leave, although employers encourage fathers to save up and use vacation leave for such an event. Some employers opt to allow for some paternity leave, e.g. the day the child is born, or perhaps the first week. (This is elective, and fairly uncommon.)

Parental leave is mandated by the government, and is broken down like this:
Maternity leave......90 days
Paternity leave.......10 days
Parental leave......160 days (to be divided by the parents as they see fit)
TOTAL.................260 days
(Incidentally, these are WORK DAYS, so not counting weekends, this cracks up to be a full year.) (And they are WITH pay.) Also, employers are not allowed to count already allotted vacation time and holidays as part of this leave time; in other words, it's completely separate from the good stuff.

As of April 1st, 2008, the Danish government is changing the paternity leave allotment from two weeks to six weeks. (Sometimes I think I'm going to wake up and find out that you'll also get a brand new car and a 20,000 kroner gift card to Ikea. And that is starting to be a not totally ridiculous idea.)

Isn't this a freaking trip?

At the moment, I'm too tired to start swimming in the ocean of "why is this so?" I'm off to take a nap, but will dream of the possibilities. And that Ikea gift card.

(Oh, yeah: And Don is reminding me that I'm supposed to tell you that I have to keep my legs tightly crossed until April 1st at 12:01am. SIGH. The things I do for this guy...)


Bluefish said...

In Canada I think the maternity leave's a year and the parents can also share it together. Plus, both parents get paid during the leave. I don't know why in US women are in such a hurry to go back to work.

This woman I used to work with was always pregnant...she'll come back to work for a while then get pregnant again and leave.

EKinDK said...

Wow, Canada's got their priorities straight. I think American women don't really have a choice -- get back in your office or lose your job! Pretty intense way to make a decision, especially if you've just gotten out of the hospital with a newborn to care for and get to know...

kimananda said...

Though, just to add in a few details, the new 6-week paternity leave is not for all men, it depends on what kind of overenskomst they have. But in general, yes, I am so glad that I'm giving birth here and not there.

And I'm crossing my fingers and toes that you maintain your current, erm, condition until at least Tuesday! :-)

shannon said...

andy told me that ruby needed to arrive on a weekend so we wouldn't have to deal with so much time off. she came friday night. just in time for her first beer on saturday. oh, right, that was me.

NotQuiteDanish said...

I'm not even going to comment on the last paragraph, cause I don't want to be basely cheeky :)

Sorry for turning into the likes of your friends asking about US parental leave BUT someone told me recently that in America, you only get two weeks holiday a year. Is that really true? I knew the Japanese were hardly done by but not the US. I mean in movies, people are always jetting off for vacations...

Good luck for the next few days - we'll be thinking of you and I hope, when the time comes, it's early in the day and not at 3am...

PiNG said...

That 'two weeks' per year is generally the norm - if you're lucky. Often for the first year of a job you have to work a full year before earning vacation at all! I worked for a company for 10 years and that 10 years managed to earn me a whopping 3 weeks of vacation.

Combine that with the children being rushed off to daycare at 1 month old and it's no wonder that the US is stressed, tired, cranky and in ill health. Oh yeah, and we pay for our own health care too - ahh, the land of the free!