The reasons behind Sweden’s high fertility level, despite its high female employment rate, were generous parental benefits and improved childcare conditions, allowing working women to have a third child. By 1989, combined maternity and paternity leave had been extended to 12 months at 90% of salary and three months with minimum pay. Moreover, either parent became entitled to up to 60 days paid leave a year to look after a sick child.
But a shift from economic boom to deep recession and high unemployment in the 1990s put an end to these reforms. Efforts to restore the economy to health led to cuts in almost every area of the welfare system, including parental benefits. The birth rate fell back to 1.5 children per woman at the end of the 1990s, the lowest ever recorded.