InDepth – Sweden – Post#2: Family Care & Education

This is the second in a series talking about things the US might learn from Sweden. This Lesson to be learned is about Family Care and Education.

Family Care

In the US

The average cost for one week at a child-care center is about $200 or about $10,000 per year per child. After school sitters run about $14/hour and nannies about $35/hour.

In the US, only California, New Jersey, and New York have laws that give employees between 4 and 10 weeks paid leave at 55-70 percent of their salaries when they have a child.

In Sweden

Day-care and preschool costs are based on family income. Day-care, if the parents are unemployed, is totally free as well as the first fifteen hours a week for children between 3 and 6 years old for preschool. Fees for other families are on a sliding scale with a ceiling of $37/week. Most Swedes place their children in public school. Private school is available but seldom used.

Swedish pregnant women get free and subsidized prenatal care and parents get 480 days (240 days for each parent) of paid leave at about 80% of their salary with a cap of $105/day when a child is born or adopted. The 480 days can be used until a child is eight years old. Parents can also reduce their normal work hours by up to 25 percent until their child is eight, but they’re paid only for the time they work.

Parents get about 80 percent of their salaries when they stay home with a sick child up to age 12. They can take this temporary leave up to 120 days a year.


In the US

Public education through grade twelve is free, but due to the perceived low quality many choose private schools at up about $12,000/year. School lunches, books and supplies are seldom free.

The average college debt of a four-year graduate is about $32,000. For law-school graduates the average debt is between $90,000 and $120,000, and those completing medical school owe an average of $197,000.

In Sweden

Kindergarten through high school is free, as are school lunches. Undergraduate college/university tuition is also free. If students need money for books, food, and housing, they get nearly no-interest loans so when they graduate, they often have zero debt, particularly if they live with parents while in school. Postgraduate education, such as medical and law school, is also free. Undergraduates aged 16–20 also get $136 monthly stipends for living expenses during the school year. If their families are low-income, they may get more. Not surprisingly, doctors and lawyers don’t need to make huge salaries to repay mountains of debt.

Next Friday I will be covering the topics of medical care, housing and transportation.


  1. RJ I have been looking forward to this series of posts. I just looked up Sweden’s debt to GDP, to see how they are coping with paying for these benefits. Sweden 37% vs USA 106%. So even with significantly better social support than the US they still have substantially lower debt than we do. I continue to be surprised that Americans have little interest in at least investigating how other countries run their economies. During my working years I constantly looked at how others had solved the problems I faced. I found it much faster to build upon and modify past success. Looking to be a pioneer every time and reinventing the wheel is a very time and money consuming proposition. Eagerly anticipating the next installment.


    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Fred. You and I think very much alike. Throughout my engineering career I was frequently disappointed by the NIH attitudes. Instead of starting from scratch, why can’t we build upon what others have given us? Sweden is a very interesting country. They frequently come out on top as the happiest people, so maybe we should learn how they do that?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s