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Family Policy Dilemmas in Contemporary Nation-States: Are Women Benefited by "Family-Friendly" Governments?

In a remarkable piece of social engineering, in 1 994 both Sweden's and Norway's Parliaments passed legislation to require fathers to take one month of parental l eave, or else the family loses the month's benefit . The goal of the new law is to increase fathers' child care responsibilities and to promote gender equality in the home. I hardly need tell you that such legislation is unthinkable in the United States or the U.K. Not only would nearly all Americans oppose such government interference with family decisions, most men would be horrified at being required to take major respon­ sibility for infant care, and most women would not want fathers to stay home with an infant. In Norway, acceptance of the new law seems to be less than universal , in that only 1 ,200 fathers have taken the one-month leave in its first year (out of approximately 7 5 ,000 births; Borge, 1 995) .