The Swedish daycare experiment has been a social disaster
September 21, 2015 7 Comments
This is fascinating. Sweden has imposed a system that nearly requires people to place their kids in daycare by age one, and it’s making for not very well educated kids, and horribly stressed out parents (especially mothers). I don’t find it overly surprising, that is the result I expect from leftist programs even, or maybe especially, the ones with good intentions. This is from The Conservative Woman, a very good British site, and is by Jonas Himmelstrand, it was first published by Mercatornet
Sweden is a pioneer in public, tax-subsidised, out-of-home daycare. In 1975, the Swedish government made public daycare available and affordable to all. Daycare expanded greatly during the 1980s and was made even cheaper in 2002 when a maximum fee (maxtaxa) was introduced. No matter how many children, no matter how many hours children spend in care, no matter how high your income – you never pay more than a fixed maximum amount, which is just below CAD $400. A low income family with one child would pay around CAD $150 per month.
Daycare in Sweden is tax-subsidised at a rate of between CAD $18,000 to CAD $23,000 per child annually. Parents who stay home, in most municipalities, receive no benefits of any kind. In high-tax Sweden this forces many homecare families into poverty.
The result, not surprisingly, is that daycare is the new norm in Sweden. Over 90 percent of all 18 month to 5-years-olds are in daycare.
How Swedish daycare got its start
In 1978, the women’s caucus of the ruling Social Democratic Party, a party that was in power for the better part of 40 years, published The Family of the Future: A Socialistic Family Policy.
The pamphlet strongly called for state-funded, affordable daycare. The goals were 1) better outcomes in child social development and academic achievement, 2) class equity, and 3) gender equity (or, as they put it, the liberation of women from their maternal instincts).
Forty years later, official statistics show that the anticipated outcomes have not been realised. Poor outcomes are acknowledged across the political spectrum, but these are not connected to the daycare system in any way. Furthermore, there is surprisingly little interest in finding out why they exist at all. The following list shows what the outcomes are.
Rapidly declining psychological health in youth
Physical health among Swedish youth is among the best in the world, but the same cannot be said for psychological wellbeing. An official Swedish government investigation in 2006 showed that mental health among Swedish 15-year-olds declined faster from 1986 to 2002 than in eleven comparable European countries.
For girls, rates of poor mental health tripled during this period, from nine to 30 per cent. According to the latest report in 2014 from the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) the numbers have remained at these high levels.
The study is based on self-reported symptoms such as anxiety, fright and alarm – a point to which we will return later. The increase happened in all groups of youth regardless of family situation, labour market situation or parental socioeconomic status. These self-reported studies are confirmed by a comparable increase in diagnosed psychiatric illness among youth during the same period.
Suicide attempts among Swedish youth are also increasing.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden is careful about how to interpret these findings. They say they do not know the reasons, but possible causes could be a tougher labour market or cultural changes, like increased individualisation.
Increased sick leave among women
Sick leave for Swedish women is among the highest in Europe with half of all the women leaving work before age 65, due to psycho-social stress.
In a continuation, the next day the author speaks more about how Swedish parents have lost trust in themselves under this regime. Here’s a taste:
The Swedish government will go far to refute any causal claims regarding daycare and negative social data. This is understandable. If causality could be established it would be a near political disaster.
Typically, loyal government experts say that the poor psychological wellbeing is due to too many choices for young people today, that school results and behaviour are due to lack of demands on the students, and that Swedish parents have never been more interested in their children (which may actually be an indicator that they have lost their parenting instincts).
They go on: Women on sick-leave is caused by men not helping enough at home. The gender-segregated labour market simply shows that child care and parental leave need to be even more regulated. A top political issue in Sweden today is different ways to force the sharing of parental leave between parents, forcing them to take a third to a half each or lose their leave.
Before other countries copy Sweden’s public daycare system, they should be careful to consider what the results have been. They haven’t been all that good it seems, or even really acceptable, either for the children™ or even for the parents. Pretty much what I would call a ‘lose-lose’, except for the government, of course, which gains more control over everybody.