Similar negotiations over childcare? A comparative study of fathers’ parental leave use in Finland and Sweden

Fathers’ leave use is promoted in many countries, but so far with different success. Major explanations of different usage revolve around economic bargaining between parents and economic constraints in the household. By using extensive register data from 1999-2009 in Finland and Sweden, this study asks whether fathers’ use of parental leave in the two countries are determined by the same socioeconomic characteristics on the individual and the household level once we control for sociodemographic factors. Striking similarities in what influences fathers’ use of leave in the two contexts are found, even though leave is used at very different levels. Equal income of the mother and father leads to fathers’ leave but in high-income households mother’s higher income leads to the highest propensity of fathers’ leave. The results indicate that equal bargaining positions are associated with fathers’ leave use but also that mothers’ stronger position often facilitates fathers’ leave.