Does paternity leave enhance gender equality?

Does paternity leave enhance gender equality?

Fathers continue to be underrepresented in take-up of parental leave in EU Member States.


9 August 2010

Fathers continue to be underrepresented in take-up of parental leave in EU Member States.

Despite improvements the female employment rate in EU27 is still only 63% on average which is 13.7% lower than the male employment rate (1). There is a common understanding in the EU that an increase in female employment is paramount to minimise the fiscal pressures on welfare states. Europe 2020 urges Member States to promote reconciliation of work and family life as well as reducing gender equality.

Better leave arrangements for mothers and fathers are closely related to employment rates, recruitment of women in the labour market, gender pay gaps and domestic sharing of care responsibilities. The European Parental Leave Directive will be revised in 2012 based on a Framework Agreement between the social partners in June 2009. The Framework Agreement suggests that fathers should be urged to take more leave, in part by making some of the leave non-transferable- as currently done in for instance Sweden.

Access to leave for fathers could however also be expanded via other measures. The European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities has therefore commissioned an impact assessment of the costs and benefits of providing EU wide rights to paternity leave. The impact assessment is carried out by the EPEC and COWI consortium in which the Tavistock Institute is a partner.The study objectives are to assess:

  • What are the current paternity leave provisions in Member States? Which share of men take up leave? What is the length of paternity leave entitlements and what are the replacement rates?
  • What is the impact of existing leave arrangements in Member States which already have paternity leave?
  • What would be the costs and benefits of an EU wide paternity leave measure? This entails benefits like increased female employment rates, reduced gender pay gaps, less horizontal labour market segregation, more equal share of domestic responsibilities and improved child welfare. Costs include administration of leave arrangements and duties for employers, in particular SME’s.

The study will also include consultation of stakeholders.

(1) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0694:FIN:EN:PDF

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