Evaluation of public policies: marital property regimes and parental leave systems. Effects on welfare regime from the gender perspective.

Evaluation of public policies: marital property regimes and parental leave systems. Effects on welfare regime from the gender perspective.

Castellanos Serrano, C. (2016) Evaluation of public policies: marital property regimes and parental leave systems. Effects on welfare regime from the gender perspective, Complutense University of Madrid (PhD Thesis) .

Castellanos Serrano, C. (2016) Evaluation of public policies: marital property regimes and parental leave systems. Effects on welfare regime from the gender perspective, Complutense University of Madrid (PhD Thesis).

The full thesis can be downloaded here (in Spanish, with conclusion and one chapter in English)


This PhD research combines macroeconomics and policy with gender studies, analysing familial and gender role-taking and their economic and social consequences in the short and long term. It explores how public policies are related to the gender dynamics that happen in families and in the labour market through the approximation of how each parent has access and use scarce resources, such as time and income.

From a multidisciplinary theoretical approach including the economy of identity, welfare regimes, feminist theory and the design and evaluation of public policy, two Spanish public policies will be analysed that regulate family relationships: the regulation of the types of cohabitation of the couple and the parental leave system. It analyses the effects of these two policies on both parents’ commitment to childcare, on their commitment to paid and unpaid work and on their income level. It also examines the gender bias and impacts of both public policies and the designs that would allow for the reduction of gender bias according to empirical evidence.


The policy evaluation combines quantitative and qualitative methods within an international and historic approach. The empirical data is mainly based on the ‘Survey on the use of parental leave and its consequences for employment’ (EUPPCL 2012)[1], triangulated with official national and international secondary sources, legal texts and interviews with key stakeholders.

This ad-hoc representative survey includes the characteristics, behaviours and perceptions of men and women living as heterosexual couples with children between 3 and 8 years old, residing in Madrid and its metropolitan area. It studies individual and family as unit of analysis of the different phenomena. It provides evidence, for the first time, on the prevalence of marital regimes (separation of property regime and community of property regime), in addition to other types of cohabitation, and their links to social, economic and labour conditions. It also includes the number of days used by men and women for each kind of leave (paternity, maternity, transferable, non-transferable, paid and unpaid) within the parental leave system. It relates both policies with the use of time, gender attitudes and behaviours, long-term economic and labour conditions. In the case of the parental leave system, given the policy reform in 2007, a causality analysis is carried out in a quasi- experimental design.


With regard to the types of cohabitation, in the Spanish context, marriage with a separation of property regime has positive relations to women’s labour market participation, less gender-biased division of childcare responsibilities and maintaining income years after having had children. This does not affect men´s results negatively: when they are married with the separation of property regime, they are more involved in childcare, whilst continuing to participate in the labour market and earning income similarly.

In contrast, the community of property regime is linked to a greater reinforcement of traditional gender roles. With this regime, men are less involved in caregiving, with the corresponding consequences for their interactions, and women demonstrate a higher level of economic dependence and are mainly responsible for childcare.

Up to date, the community of property regime is the marital property regime applied by default in the regular process of getting marriage in many parts of Spain. A first step towards reducing the transgression costs of breaking away from the social norm of traditional gender roles could be to provide more information on marital regimes and their economic and legal consequences and allow, at least, to directly choose the marital regime over that process.

In relation to the parental leave system for birth or adoption, empirical evidence is provided showing that its design differing on grounds of sex, i.e. maternity leave is different to paternity leave, is the principal cause of mothers using a higher number of days of parental leave than fathers. In fact, it is confirmed that the 2007 reform, which introduced paternity leave of 13 days in Spain, has caused fathers to use more days of paid parental leave, whereas mothers use unpaid parental leave to a lesser extent.

Furthermore, fathers using parental leave for longer contribute to their further involvement in childcare on the long run, when the leave period has ended. This greater participation in childcare includes aspects such as sharing those childcare tasks currently considered more feminised. The implementation of a system of equal parental leave for both parents, which is also non-transferable and fully-paid, would be an effective tool of equality policy. This policy reform is widely accepted in a very positive way and it would allow reducing the different fathers´ and mothers´ use of leave for child or adoption. In the long term, equal, non-transferable and fully-paid parental leave is, therefore, a relevant instrument for reducing gender-specific division of work and use of time, strengthening parental bonds, favouring economic independence of mothers and reducing the risk of poverty.

Ultimately, public policies that regulate the types of cohabitation and the design of the parental leave system are key when it comes to encouraging people to have more of a choice in how they behave beyond traditional gender roles. Policy reforms to support separate property as a marital property regime, as well as equal, non-transferable and fully-paid parental leave are expected to impact positively to advance towards gender equality within families, the labour market, society and the economy.

[1] Encuesta sobre el Uso de los Permisos Parentales y sus Consecuencias Laborales (EUPPCL 2012)

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