Expats’ choice: Countries with the best parental leave policies

It’s been a while since parental policies have become more than just legalese – nowadays they’re a major indication of a country’s approach to gender equality. Progressive parental leave policies can smooth the transition to parenthood for both partners and split the parenting burden between them. Some countries have implemented this better than others, encouraging long parental leave and sharing responsibilities between parents.

For expats and assignees particularly this topic is quite sensitive. Most long-term relocations involve the assignee moving with their family or partners. If the assignee is expecting a child or intends to start a family, the parental leave policies of the country they expect to move to are one of the most significant factors regarding how willing they will be to relocate and how happy they will feel. While assignees sometimes may not have a choice in their destination, it is important to be informed which opportunities are better suited if you are expecting children soon and a relocation opportunity comes knocking.

Let’s take a look at what countries are best for new families. Coincidently or not, they are pretty much situated in one part of the world as you can see in this picture:


Sweden is quite popular for its generous welfare system and is home to the most gender-equitable parental leave system in the whole world. The parental leave policy in Sweden is amazing as parents are given a total of 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. According to the Swedish Institute, “This number is high by international standards and is perhaps Sweden’s most famous argument when it comes to being a child-friendly system.” The policy is also incredibly flexible since it allows parents to use their parental leave up until the kid is 12 years old.

Oh, and have we mentioned that they also have state-subsidized childbirth, fully tax-funded schooling from the age of 6, an allowance for staying home with sick children, and largely tax-funded healthcare? Well, now you know.


Very similar to Sweden, parental leave in Norway equals 12 months’ leave in connection with the birth and after the birth. According to norden.org, on the top of the first 12 months, each of the parents can have an additional one year of leave for each birth, but at a significantly reduced flat rate. And if you are taking care of the child yourself, you can have both the years.  Interesting fact: only 40% of Norwegian fathers use all parental leave benefits.


In case you didn’t know, the Finnish language is more related to Hungarian than to neighboring countries. Nevertheless, in terms of generous parental leave policies, it is definitely Scandinavian style.

Infofinland.fi claims that maternity leave in Finland lasts 105 weekdays, and after that, either parent can stay at home to look after the baby for another 158 weekdays. Though, only 26 of those weeks are paid out at 70% of the parent’s salary. For the remaining weeks, parents are paid at a flat rate. Interesting fact: Finland has a low rate of fathers using parental leave benefits.


The last Scandinavian country on our list. Despite their tiny population (just under 340,000), Iceland’s parental leave allowances are truly great. According to work.iceland.is, recently parental leave was extended from 10 to 12 months, which is paid at 80% of the parent’s salary. Fathers use around 45% of the total benefit usage on average, but nonetheless, Iceland has shown huge progress towards normalizing gender equality regarding parenting.


This is the only country in our list that is outside of Scandinavia but it’s still geographically close to it. Interesting fact: historically, Germany had been quite conventional towards gender norms, but it started to change in the mid-2000s by implementing a spate of policies to support mothers back into employment.

In Germany, parental leave can last up to three years with an option to extend with additional two years at any point before the child turns eight years old. Not all of this period is fully paid through: parental allowance can vary between 65% to 100% of the income parents used to have before childbirth. The higher the prior salary, the lower the parental allowance is.

The hidden importance of adequate parental leave

Without a doubt, it is crucial for parents to have time for their children, regardless of where they live or work. The fact is ensuring proper parental policies should be a priority for companies and governments for both moral reasons and for economic development.

It is proven that adequate maternity leave makes female labor force participation higher, decreases mortality rates, and adds health benefits to mothers. At the same time, paternity leave matters for female employment in developing economies as it can:

  1. Boost mother’s earnings (According to a research “The effect of own and spousal parental leave on earnings” by Elly-Ann Johansson)
  2. Reduce mother-absenteeism due to sickness (Research by Espen Bratberg and Ghazala Naz)
  3. Increase female employment in private firms (According to World Bank Group)


Governmental parental policies without a doubt matter, but they are not the only ones to pay attention to. Companies and enterprises can create their own parental policies. Corporate parental leave policies are bound by the law, however, they can provide more than the legal requirements. Most reputable and competitive employers take care of their employees by going above and beyond and it’s not only about parental policies.

When it comes to international relocation, reputable and competitive companies are eager to ensure overall comfort and a smooth experience to their assignments. This can be done by special software that caters to assignees’ relocation needs. If you or your company deals with international relocation, consider Clearmove – a software solution that helps enterprises streamline transfer processes in the global mobility space. With our revolutionary product, all the aspects of assignees’ moving, together with HR and Supply Chain dashboards, are kept in one convenient and easy-to-use ecosystem. Contact us for more details.