The fact that Icelandic male business managers and business leaders are increasingly not taking maternity leave was one of many issues raised at a conference last week on the future of Icelandic children called, “Our happy youth,” reported Morgunbaldid.
Other issues included the institutionalization of the Icelandic society as evidenced, for example, by the fact 70% of children age 3 – 5 spend more than eight hours per day at day care centers.
The parents of these children are said to have the second longest work day of all the European nations.
CEO of Alcan Iceland, Rannveig Rist, a speaker that the conference asked: “Could it be that the ruthlessness and competition in business life is so great that it is simply too risky for them [male business managers and business leaders] to take maternity leave or take time off from work to nurture their family, for example by going to parent-teacher conferences or class events?”
Rannveig continued to ask, “are managers therefore scared about [losing] their position, or maybe they don’t trust their colleagues to temporarily relieve them? Or maybe they think they are too important, or do they want others to think that they are so important that they can not go away for three months?”
The State Social Security Institute (SSSI) offers Icelandic parents nine months of leave on 80 per cent of their salaries – three months for the mother, three months for the father and three months for either mother or father.
The assistant to the Prime Minister, Björn Ingi Hrafnsson, who also serves as chairman of a committee on the status of the Icelandic family, pointed out that the majority of the participants at the conference on were female, while at a recent business conference, where leaders of the Icelandic business community congregated, the participants were mostly males. He said it was sad how few men participated in a conference to discuss the future of Icelandic children and recommended merging the two conferences.
The “institutionalization” of Icelandic society was also discussed. Elín Thorarensen, managing director of an organization named “Home and School”, said that there was a considerable gap in the collaboration between parents and the schools where both sides take responsibility for raising the children rather than continuously blame each other.
Professor Jón Torfi Jónasson said that in the last 25 years Icelandic children have increasingly been put in day care. He said that 70% of Icelandic children (from age 3 – 5) spent over 8 hours a day in day care while 30% of the children spent over 9 hours a day in day care.
The rise of inequality and poverty in the nation was a hot topic.
Gudrún Helgadóttir, a well known children’s book author and former MP, said: “In a radically changed society, where parents work outside the home, grandparents are no longer in the homes and we have next to no contact with our neighbors, the parents have to increasingly bear the stress themselves. The children’s spare time is planned for them. Those that can afford it have professionals organize the lives of their children. Those that live in poverty are forced to leave them abandoned, often alone. The prosperity of the rich takes a toll because greed begets even more greed.”
Gudrún is the mother-in-law of a CEO of a prominent bank in Iceland. Last year, her son-in-law and five of his managing directors were heavily criticized for taking a loan from their employer to purchase of a few hundred million shares in their bank which a few months later they sold with a profit of almost half a billion Icelandic króna.
Gudrún continued to say that those left behind have a completely different standard of living as the gap between rich and poor increased, with negative effects on children’s lives.
During the panel discussion, at the end of the conference, parents were encouraged to prioritize their time better in this “fast living society” and give time with their children and family greater priority.