Pro-Family Policies: Comparative Study Of Sweden and India

Pro-family policies are those that support traditional families and their values. Family policies are closely related to population policies. This is observed in the cases of Sweden and India below

Developing countries face rapid population growth as a threat to their wellbeing whereas many developed countries are forced to battle with very low fertility. Global trends in population growth from 2005–10 shows a distinct pattern between growth in a developing country like India and a developed one like Norway. Moderate annual growth of 1–2% is concentrated in large countries, such as India whereas most advanced-economy countries like Sweden are characterized by low or no growth (0– 1% per year). Countries with rapid growth face adverse social, economic, and environmental pressures, whereas those with low or negative growth face rapid population ageing, unsustainable burdens on public pensions and health-care systems, and slow economic growth (Ezeh et al., 2012).
 Since India and Norway lie on opposite ends of demographic trends, their family policies also differ drastically. A case study of the family policies of each of these countries will help in further understanding the difference in policy measures of high and low fertility countries. 
Family policies are those public policies that directly affect families especially those with children. Pro-family policies are those that support traditional families and their values. Family policies are closely related to population policies. This is observed in the cases of Sweden and India below.


Sweden is widely known for its liberal family policies which contribute towards reconciliation of work and family life. Swedish family policies are organized around goals such as family economic security and physical well-being, children’s rights and gender equality. The Swedish welfare state follows the ideology of universal welfare and general rights provided in cash or through services. This ideology is supportive of the principles of family policy. The family policy is applicable to all permanent residents of Sweden (“Family policies” 2014).

The family policy of Sweden follows the dual-earner model and thus enforces similar rights and obligations regarding the family and labour market for both men and women. Dual earner support is income-related and individual, which together with individual

taxation provides incentives for families to have two incomes instead of one (“Family policies” 2014).

Childcare provision

Preschool also called daycare is available and guaranteed for ages 1-6. It is free for those children between the ages of 3 and 6 for up to 15 hours per week. The fees are proportional to parental income and inversely related to the number of children in a family. After the age of 6, children have the option to enrol in a non-compulsory pre-school year. This year is free of charge and also includes a meal at school. It exists to facilitate the transition from preschool to school and help children get accustomed to the school situation (“Family policies” 2014).

Parental leave

In 1974, Sweden adopted a “parental insurance” system through which Sweden became the first country in the world to extend paid parental leave to fathers. The parental leave was given jointly to the mother and father as long as they were covered by national health insurance. There has been continuous reform of the parental leave scheme since the 1970s. In 1995, the leave scheme was extended to 16 months of which the first year is paid. The parents receive 80% of their salary during this time period. Reforms were introduced in 1995 and 2002 which provided industrialized leave that could not be transferred between parents. This was done in the hopes to increase gender-equal uptake of parental leave (“Family policies” 2014).
 Parental leave in Sweden is granted to employed men and women. Employers are not allowed to disfavour job applicants or employees based on their parental leave (“Family policies” 2014).

Family allowances

In Sweden, family allowances are related to family policy and the social insurance system. The Social Insurance Code details three areas of family allowances: general allowances like child allowance; insurance schemes like parental benefits; and means-tested allowances like housing allowance (“Family policies” 2014).

All Swedish families with children receive financial aid through child allowance. Every mother is paid a tax-free amount which currently 115 euros per month following the birth of a child. The child allowance is paid till the child reaches 16

years of age. Moreover, the National Board of Student Aid pays a study allowance if the child is enrolled in a full-time education institution (“Family policies” 2014). The means-tested allowances provide a housing allowance for families with children living at home. Furthermore, single parents receive maintenance support which guarantees that children of divorced parents are also looked after (“Family policies” 2014).


The Marriage Code of 2009 governs marriage in Sweden in the form of a partnership. After May 1 2009, marriage in Sweden was declared gender-neutral, i.e. the same rights apply to couples of same-sex or different sexes. The marriage is entered into through either a religious ceremony or a civil marriage ceremony. Men and women above the age of 18 are considered eligible for marriage. The law prohibits marriages between persons of direct blood relation. Furthermore, polygamy is also prohibited by law in Sweden (“Family policies” 2014).


Sweden passed its most recent legal reform regarding divorce in 1974. The new divorce law states that the individual reasons behind divorce should be regarded as a strictly private matter. Hence it became possible to file for divorce individually without providing a shared cause. While the mandatory period of legal separation was removed, the law stated a waiting period of six months if the spouses had joint custody of a child under 16. The 1974 divorce law is still in place today (“Family policies” 2014).


Family in India needs to be viewed foremost in the context of the enormous ethnic diversity of the country. Currently, there is no uniform civil code of family and marriage for all religious groups in the country (Shah 1989). Another fundamental problem with Indian family policy is regarding the type of family unit to which the policy should be applicable. In every ethnic group, there exist large and complex households and extended families which do not always belong to a joint household. Hence, a conceptual distinction between household and family are absolutely essential

for an understanding of the family in India.t The legal entity called the joint family is covered by an enormous corpus of complicated legalities (Shah 1989).
The most important intervention of the Indian state into the intimate and sensitive life of the family is the birth control program also called family planning or family welfare program. The family planning program is propagating the two-child norm, irrespective of the child’s sex. This implies, that couples should not produce any children after they have had two daughters. Unfortunately, this implication goes against the patrilineal principle that governs family and kinship in the majority of the Indian population of all religions. Therefore, to bring about equality of status between male and female children, the role of the patrilineal principle in various spheres of life needs to be reduced (Shah 1989).

Elderly care

The care for the aged is emerging gradually as a major family policy issue in the country. Due to increasing life expectancy, the population of the aged is increasing in proportion to the total population. Traditionally, the care of elders was the concern of the family, relatives by kinship and marriage, and the community. After independence, the state also began to show concern for the aged. The state as an employer gives to its employee’s retirement benefits such as pension, provident fund, gratuity and insurance cover. Additionally, most of the states have introduced the Old Age Pension Scheme for the aged destitute. Unfortunately, as the scheme is non- statutory, the state governments can fiddle with it and use it as they wish (Shah 1989). It must be noted that there is a fundamental contradiction between the policy for the aged and the policies for family planning and women. The former seeks not only to rely upon but also strengthen the traditional family system, while the latter aims to change it (Shah 1989).

Population Policies

The population policies rolled out by the Indian government can be classified into six phases as follows:

1. Clinic Approach (1951- 1961)
In 1952, the first Five Year Plan included a program for Family Limitation and Population Control. This program aimed at reducing birth rates in an effort to stabilize the population and the national economy. A sum of Rs.6.5 million was allocated by the Central Government for the incentive. The family planning program included activities like motivation, education, research and clinical services (Srinivasan 2006).

  1. Extension Education Approach: (Low-intensity HITTS Approach – 1962) Unfortunately, the 1961 census showed a continued rise in the population growth rate. Thus the extension approach replaced the clinic approach and family panning workers were asked to make house calls to motivate couples to accept family planning methods. The program became rooted in a HITTS model: i.e., Health department operated, Incentive-based, Target- oriented, Time-bound and Sterilization-focused program. Vasectomies came to be regarded as the most popular form of fertility regulation. However, the demographic goals set in 1962, is extremely unrealistic, had to be revised time and again at the end of each Five Year Plan (Srinivasan 2006).
  2. HITTS Approach: High Intensity (1969- 76)
The previous extension approach initiated in 1962 was not very successful. This was proven by the fact that sample surveys done in the late 1960s revealed that the birth rate was not declining but on the other hand was even rising in some areas. A new high-intensity approach was adopted wherein vasectomy camps were organized, first as mini camps and then as larger ones. A famous example of such camps is the Ernakulam camp in Kerala in 1970 where over 60,000 vasectomies were done in a week (Srinivasan 2006).
  3. Coercive Approach (1976- 1977)
In 1976, a National Population Policy was formulated and adopted for the first time by the Parliament. This policy inspired state governments to pass legislation to make family planning compulsory for all citizens if the state so desired (Srinivasan 2006). The central government offered both political and fiscal incentives to the state governments for implementation of the family planning program. States such as Maharashtra began drafting laws that made it compulsory for couples to stop reproduction after two or three children. Vasectomies were conducted in railway stations and in quickly arranged campsites. The number of sterilizations done in India during April 1976 to March 1977 was 8.26 million, more than the total number done in the previous five years (Srinivasan 2006).
  4. Recoil and Recovery Phase: Post Emergency Period (1977- 1994)
There was a tremendous backlash on the family planning program, especially its insistence on targets for vasectomy. The new government changed the name of ‘family planning’ to ‘family welfare’. A revised Population Policy adopted in 1977 was totally against compulsory sterilization and legislation of any kind towards that end and stated that compulsion in the area of family welfare must be ruled out for all times to come (Srinivasan 2006).
  5. Reproductive and Child Health Approach (since 1995) The Reproductive and Child Health Program seeks to address gender issues impinging on women’s health by improving quality of care, including promoting better interaction between providers and clients; increasing the availability of female health care providers at the primary health care level; addressing neglected concerns of women such as reproductive tract infections; addressing the needs of neglected population sub-groups such as adolescents; organizing gender sensitization training for stakeholders; encouraging male involvement in reproductive health; and facilitating women’s and men’s participation in program monitoring through client feedback (Srinivasan 2006).

Comparison of Sweden and India’s Policies

Sweden is the country where the modern liberal welfare state was first conceptualized and put into practice. Among other elements, that doctrine combined feminism (emphasis on women’s autonomy and professional activity), neo- Malthusianism (emphasis on sex education, access to free contraception and later also to abortion), and de facto, though no longer explicit, pro-natalism (provision of marriage incentives, child allowances, housing priorities for larger families, and access to childcare services). The fiscal system deals with individuals, not families. There is no married-couple allowance, and there are no tax rebates for children: each income is taxed independently. But child support enforcement is strong: fathers are obliged to meet their parental responsibilities. These policies are, no doubt, a reflection of Swedish cultural traits, such as the Lutheran religious tradition that stresses the dignity and personal responsibility of the individual (Chesnais 1996). An overview of Swedish policies reveals that they deal with the nation as individuals since Sweden is an individualistic society. Moreover, it is observed that Sweden has adopted multiple pro-family policies in an effort to increase the nation’s fertility rate.

On the other hand, India is a collectivistic society and thus the Indian family policies have dealt with the nation as families instead of individuals. After a thorough analysis of India’s population and resultant family welfare policies over the decades, it can be stated that India did not adopt pro-family policies. In an effort to reduce their fertility rate, the Indian government adopted birth control programs rather than childcare policies.


An overview of the family policies of two countries with different demographics revealed interesting results. As a low fertility nation, Sweden adopted pro-family policies through various means such as childcare provision. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies India. As a country with high fertility, India opted to implement family policies such as birth control and sterilization programs.


Chesnais, J. (1996). Fertility, Family, and Social Policy in Contemporary Western Europe. Population and Development Review, 22(4), 729-739. doi:10.2307/2137807

Ezeh, A. C., Bongaarts, J & Mberu, B. (2012). Global population trends and policy options. The Lancet, 380(9837), 142-148. 6736(12)60696-5

Family Policies: Sweden. (2014). Retrieved 20 April 2020 from

Shah, A. (1989). Parameters of Family Policy in India. Economic and Political Weekly, 24(10), 513-516. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from

Srinivasan, K. (2006). Population Policies and Family Planning in India: A Review and Recommendations. International Institute for Population Sciences. Retrieved from

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Arushi is a sociology and environmental studies. She is passionate about writing and researching about these two fields. She has a keen interest in social work and has collaborated with many volunteering programs in the past. Her hobbies include horse riding, trekking and painting.