The sea change has helped them grow as a couple, Asplund said.
“It puts more strain on the family as a whole when you’re not able to share the responsibility of everything,” she says. “Now, we both work, we both take care of the kids, we both take care of the house, there’s not that rift or division. It was just a lot better.”
Children spending more quality time with their fathers has a cascade of social benefits, according to the Swedish government, but it also allows women to pursue their careers and become more active members of the workforce.
In this sense, gender equality is a dispassionate economic goal; right now half of the population is unable to contribute as much as the other because of traditional family commitments.
Some conservative critics say this focus on dads means moms are pressured to abandon their children too soon. The Swedish government disagrees.
“One of the main discussions now is how do we make dads stay at home more,” says Harju, the health ministry spokesman. “We are in firm belief that children have the right to spend time with both their parents, and we have to ensure that the system also covers that and pushes society toward that direction.”
Another American father with experience in both worlds is Michael Wells, a Minnesota native and an expert on parental leave.
He moved to Sweden to study the country’s unique parenting model but ended up meeting a Swedish woman, getting married and having a son.
“When I originally came, I came to study it, not to live it,” says Wells, who works as a researcher at the Karolinska Institute, a medical university in Stockholm.
For Wells, it’s not just the family leave that sets Sweden apart but the raft of other social welfare benefits.
For example, parents don’t have to take all of their 480 days at once. Some of that time can be deferred up until the child is 12 years old. In addition, the government pays every couple — whether they are janitors or CEOs — an allowance that equates to around $130 per child per month.
Swedes also get a whopping 120 days of “child sick leave” per year, when they can stay home if a child is ill without eating into their own already generous allowance.
“I think Americans would be really surprised by the system here,” Wells says. “And the U.S. system would be unfathomable to a Swede.”
How does Sweden pay for this? Part of the answer, very broadly, is that Swedes are prepared to pay more in taxes than Americans — much more.
If Sweden’s tax system was applied in the U.S., everyone earning more than $75,000 would have to pay the top marginal tax rate of around 61 percent — one of the highest in the world. Currently, only Americans earning around $400,000 hit the top tax bracket of around 46 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington think tank.
Many in the U.S. might argue this goes against the American spirit distilled by President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address in 1989: “We the people tell the government what to do; it doesn’t tell us.”
But like many in Sweden, Wells says he is happy to pay extra because of the parental leave, subsidized health care, subsidized preschools and a slew of other benefits he gets in return.
“I get a lot from my taxes. I see what they provide,” he says. “And as soon as you start having kids, you see all these other benefits that you get out of your taxes that I know I would have to pay for out of my own pocket in the U.S. That’s a huge burden off my shoulders.”
The Swedish government is now trying to modernize its family leave and update a policy that was devised in the 1970s so it better suits life in 2018.
“For instance, in the LGBT community, where two lesbians or gay people have kids together, how are they able to use the insurance in a sensible way so it’s adjusted to different families?” says Harju at the health ministry.
Reid and Wells say they’ve already encountered an array of reactions from people in the U.S.
“We have a lot of friends who have kids and they all are pretty much asking: ‘How do we get to Sweden? How do we live there?'” Reid says.
Asplund has had a different experience. “Yeah, they think it’s all communist,” she laughs.
Others might argue that the Swedish model — catering to a far more homogeneous population of 10 million than America’s 326 million — could never work in the U.S.
“If every other industrialized country in the world can have parental leave,” he says, “I’m pretty sure the U.S. can manage to do it, too.”
St Vincent volcano: Around 16,000 people flee communities after eruption of La Soufriere | World News
About 16,000 people have had to flee their ash-covered communities after a volcano erupted on the Caribbean island of St Vincent.
The eruption of La Soufriere on Friday has transformed the island’s usual lush towns and villages into a gloomy, grey landscape.
It was the 4,000-ft volcano’s first major eruption since 1979.
Thousands of residents have had to evacuate their homes and seek shelter with as many belongings as they could stuffed into suitcases and backpacks.
It comes after a strong sulphur smell was unavoidable on Saturday as ash blanketed large parts of the island.
There have been no reports of anyone being killed or injured by the initial blast or those that followed.
The had government ordered people to evacuate the most high-risk area around the volcano before the eruption after scientists warned that magma was moving close to the surface.
Government authorities delivered water, food and supplies to the shelters where many had fled to.
The island’s international airport remained blanketed in ash and smoke on Saturday making the runway barely visible.
Western Australian towns evacuated after tropical cyclone barrels down with 100mph winds | World News
A tropical cyclone has hit the western coast of Australia with winds of more than 100mph (170km) and much of the area put on “red alert”.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Meteorology, Todd Smith, said cyclone Seroja was now at category two but had reached “category three cyclone intensity” with damaging winds which would continue into the night.
Emergency services opened shelters in preparation for the high winds and coastal flooding.
Category 2 #TCSeroja rapidly moving southeast. Impacts to the west coast of WA begin this afternoon and inland parts this evening and overnight. Dangerous conditions including destructive wind gusts, intense rainfall and a dangerous storm tide. Latest info https://t.co/bku7VbhoZa pic.twitter.com/UD1DrGfve9
— Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia (@BOM_WA) April 11, 2021
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said in a bulletin: “There is a possible threat to lives and homes.
“You need to take action and get ready to shelter.”
The DFES has so far put five coastal towns on “red alert”.
Some towns north of Perth were evacuated while sandbags were being made available to residents further down the coast.
A category three classification can see wind speeds of up to 170mph (224km).
After touching down on the north western town of Geraldton (124 miles/200km north of Perth) and dumping more than 10cm of rain in just two hours, tropical cyclone Seroja headed inland, lessening slightly in intensity.
However, officials were still braced for a “high degree of damage” to buildings in the area.
A spokesman for the Western Australia emergency services department explained that buildings were not constructed to withstand such strong winds in a region as it typically too far south to fall into the path of cyclones.
Russia: Inside the Kremlin’s military build-up along the Ukraine border | World News
At the Maslovka railway station just south of the Russian city of Voronezh, there’s a small military camp, a few trucks and a tent.
The clearing in front is rutted thanks to the steady unloading of military equipment in recent weeks.
A soldier recognises us from the day before.
“Hello spies,” he said.
Russia’s military build-up in Crimea and along the border with Ukraine has hardly been subtle.
It has coincided with the breakdown of the latest ceasefire in the simmering conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
More and more videos have appeared on social media of Russian troop movements – artillery convoys along the bridge connecting Russia with Crimea; trains loaded with weaponry coming from as far east as Siberia.
These sightings from ordinary Russians alongside warnings from Ukrainian generals preceded the Russian military’s announcement of exercises in the region and sent alarm bells ringing across Western capitals.
The kit unloaded at Maslovka is headed to a nearby training ground, which has been turned into a huge military field camp.
It stretches for around a mile and a half and backs right onto a neighbourhood of dachas, the weekend homes of mostly Voronezh city-folk who tell us the build-up began in late March.
We accidentally drive right in, though the soldiers make no effort to come after us.
There are a large number of military trucks, row after row of tents, troops milling about.
The sign at the entrance is one that most Russian conscripts remember from military service – “Difficult on exercise, easier in the fight”.
The site was first identified through open source methods by the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) in Moscow.
“It looks more like preparing for an offensive operation, not just to protect our land,” CIT’s Ruslan Leviev told us in Moscow.
But he does not believe it’s a prelude to war.
“It looks like a show of force to put pressure on the Ukrainian government, to show your posture on the international stage, to show your position to the new American administration.”
Locals pottering around their dachas hardly spare a thought for the military build-up next door.
“If Zelensky (the Ukrainian president) isn’t a fool, then nothing will happen. If he is a fool, anything could happen,” said Nina, a pensioner who we meet watering her garden.
“‘Anyway, it’s not him who decides things, it’s the Americans.”
She does not want to give her surname.
“I hope I haven’t revealed any military secrets,” she added.
“There are always exercises here, every summer,” said Yuri, a local guard.
“Stop all this talk of war.”
But there are not exercises on this scale.
Neither here nor elsewhere along Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Not since the annexation of Crimea has Russia beefed up its presence there to this extent, re-deploying an air brigade from near the Estonian border and sending 10 naval vessels from the Caspian to reinforce the Black Sea fleet.
In response, the US has announced it will send two warships into the Black Sea.
The German chancellor asked Vladimir Putin this week to wind down the military build-up.
This Sunday after consultations with his US counterpart, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted the same.
It does not appear to be happening.
The Russian position is clear. What happens on Russian soil is Russia’s business.
It is hard to argue with that.
The UK 🇬🇧 & US 🇺🇸 firmly oppose Russia’s campaign to destabilise Ukraine. @SecBlinken & I agreed Russia must immediately de-escalate the situation & live up to the international commitments that it signed up to at @OSCE. Our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty is unwavering.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) April 11, 2021
But ostentatious muscle-flexing around Ukraine is not an option for the West to ignore – the stakes are too high, they are for all involved.
Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky may clamour for fast-track NATO membership but he will not get it.
For all their loud protestations over NATO’s possible eastward-creep, the Kremlin knows that.
US President Joe Biden may declare his unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and integrity but he will be wary of walking anywhere near potential conflict with Russia.
And surrounded as he is by Russian forces, president Zelensky knows re-taking the country’s eastern Donbas region, parts of which are held by separatists, is wishful thinking as is any large-scale fight with his powerful neighbour to the East.
It is of course hard to know what Russia is playing at but they seem to be eyeing the long game.
Coercive diplomacy to extract concessions in negotiations on Donbas, a powerful display of military muscle for the new US administration to take note of while the de facto annexation of the separatist regions of Ukraine chugs along apace.
According to Russian state news agency Ria Novosti, 420,000 people in the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics have already received Russian passports.
Russia is aiming for one million by parliamentary elections this September.
“It’s unifying their legislation with the Russian one, it’s providing them with the Russian vaccine, it’s providing them with passports. It doesn’t mean Russia wants to annex them,” said Maxim Samorukov from the Moscow Carnegie Institute.
“At least in the near future,” he added.
It also provides quite the justification for full-scale intervention should Russia’s calculus change.
President Putin has said allowing Ukrainian troops along Russia’s border with the separatist regions could lead to a Srebrenica-type massacre – the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces.
Dmitry Kozak, Russia’s representative in negotiations on Ukraine, has threatened that a Ukrainian assault on Donbas would be a ‘”self-inflicted gunshot wound in the foot and to the head”.
“If the Srebrenica massacre takes place there, we will have to stand up for their defence,” he said.
Sharp rhetoric to match an aggressive display of military might.
All in the interests of deterrence? Perhaps.
But also an indication that eight years of sanctions has hardly served to deter Russia from at the very least flexing its muscles, if not more.
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