New laws for a new year
Tax Changes, paternity leave and ID checks are just a few of the new laws ready to be introduced into Sweden with the new year, and not everyone is happy with them.
The coming new year will bring a slew of new laws and regulations into effect in Sweden. Among them are a third month for paternity leave and changes in the so-called RUT and ROT tax breaks, including house renovation and cleaning services. There will also be higher gasoline taxes and the possibility of introducing ID checks on trains, busses and ferries into Sweden.
The most discussed new law is the ID checks for passenger transport into Sweden. The checks are to be instituted if there is seen to be a serious threat to public order or security in the country. The government has said they will begin already with the checks 4 January, when refugees will need to provide ID to authorities to cross the Swedish border.
Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson spoke about the new law in Parliament:
"The system we have now for receiving and providing welfare in Sweden is so hard pressed that we in the government see a need to immediately make far-reaching decisions," Johansson said.
Another change coming in the new year is the 1 February elimination of a time limit for sick leave benefits. The current system has a benefits limit of two and a half years, and has been hotly debated.
Changes are coming to the rules for the so-called RUT and ROT tax breaks, for services like home renovations and cleaning. Services like renovations currently receive a 50 percent tax break, but starting in January that will be knocked down to 30 percent. Likewise, tax breaks on household services, like cleaning, will be halved, except for people over 65. Cooking, bartending and other "luxury" cleaning will no longer receive any tax breaks.
Erik Ullenhag, the Liberal party's economic spokesperson, told Swedish Radio News that he is afraid of what consequences these changes will have on jobs.
"We have few low-skilled jobs in Sweden, and need reforms to create more of these jobs," Ullenhag said. "instead, weakening these tax breaks will raise the bar of entry into the Swedish labor market."
Other tax changes will be an increase of the tax on diesel and gasoline, a tax reduction for people with lower pensions and a scaling down of the earned income tax credit for high-income earners.
Starting in the new year, restraining orders will be enforced reciprocally across all countries in the EU.
Fathers will be given in January a third month, one month more than the current two, just for them as part of total parental leave, giving parents an extra month to be with their children. Annika Strandhäll, minister for social services, told Swedish Radio News that the goal with the law change is to increase fathers' share of parental leave.
"This is something we have really looked forward to. We know that this is a key issue in the attempt to achieve greater gender equality," Stranhäll said.
In a further move to promote gender equality, benefits for staying home with children are being cut beginning next year. These benefits have been criticized for having impeded both integration and gender equality because, for example, low-educated immigrant women could apply for these benefits instead of looking for work. There have also been few people applying for the benefits.