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Parental Leave Policies and Gender Equality:
A Survey of the Literature
*
Lídia Farré
Universitat de Barcelona,
Faculty of Economics and Business
(GiM-IREA), Avda. Diagonal, 690,
08034 Barcelona, Spain. E-mail:
lidia.farre@gmail.com
ABSTRACT
Important gender differences still persist in many labor market outcomes. This paper argues that the design of
parental leave policies can play an important role in shaping these differences. A summary of the literature reveals
that extended maternity leave mandates increase female labor force participation at the cost of lower wages, less
presence of women in high-profile occupations and a more traditional division of tasks within the family. Periods of
leave exclusively reserved for fathers are proposed as a policy instrument to increase men's participation in family
tasks and facilitate women's progress in the professional career. The paper concludes with a revision of these policies
and their implications for gender equality.
Keywords:
Parental Leave, Father or Daddy Quota, Gender Inequality, Childcare; Labor Supply, Gender Role
Attitudes.
Permisos de Paternidad e igualdad de género: Una revisión de la
literatura
RESUMEN
En el mercado de trabajo todavía existen importantes diferencias entre hombres y mujeres. Este trabajo argumenta
que los permisos de paternidad pueden tener un papel importante sobre esas diferencias. La revisión de la literatura
sugiere que una extensión de la baja de maternidad tiende a aumentar la participación femenina en el mercado de
trabajo a cambio de salarios más bajos, menor presencia de mujeres en ocupaciones de alta cualificación y una
división más tradicional de las tareas dentro del hogar. Por su parte, los permisos de paternidad reservados exclusi-
vamente a los hombres se proponen como un instrumento útil para impulsar su participación en las tareas familiares y
facilitar el progreso de las mujeres en la carrera profesional. El artículo concluye con una revisión de estos permisos y
sus efectos sobre la desigualdad de género.
Palabras Clave:
Permiso de maternidad y paternidad,
desigualdad de género, cuidado de los niños , oferta de trabajo,
cultura de género.
Clasificación JEL: J16, D13, J13
*
Farré acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Catalonia (grant SGR2014-325) and the Ministry of Economy and
Competitiveness Grant number ECO2014-59959-P-P.
____________
Artículo disponible en versión electrónica en la página www.revista-eea.net, ref. ә-34101
ISSN 1697-5731 (online) – ISSN 1133-3197 (print)
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1.
INTRODUCTION
Parental leave policies were initially designed to protect a mother and her
child's health at an early age as well as to balance family and market work. The
main economic feature of these policies is the right to return to a previous
employment position within a certain period (job-protected leave).
1
However,
the labor market effects of family policies are complex and not always well
understood.
This paper revises the economic consequences of parental leave policies and
highlights the importance of periods of leave exclusively reserved for fathers to
reduce gender differences within the family and the workplace. It also
summarizes the experience of countries that have introduced these policies. The
evidence suggests that non-transferable mandates entitled to fathers are a
powerful policy instrument to increase their participation in parental leave.
There is, however, more controversy regarding the long-term effects on gender
imbalances.
In most OECD countries both parents are eligible to take time off work after
a child is born, but the large majority of leave-takers are women (OECD 2015).
Figure 1 shows the percentage of employed mothers with a child under age 1 on
maternity or parental leave for a sample of European countries.
2
The percentage
ranges from around 80 to 90% in countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Austria
and Hungary to less than 30% in Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Belgium.
Figure 1
Use of leave by employed mothers
Note: Proportion of employed mothers with a child under age 1 on maternity or parental
leave, 2013.
Source:
OECD (2015) Family Database.
1
The period of job-absence may be paid, unpaid or partially paid depending on each country
specific policy.
2
Maternity leave is the period of job absence exclusively reserved for the mother, while the
parental leave period can be shared by the two parents.
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While parental leave policies have been shown to have a positive effect on
female job continuity, there is also the concern that they foster gender inequality
in other labor market outcomes (Ruhm 1998). For example, Sweden has a very
generous system of family benefits. Parents are allowed a total of 480 days of
partially paid leave that can be taken any time up until the child turns 8 years
old.
3
In this country, the gender gap in employment is only 3.9% and there is
little if any gender wage gap for low and intermediate skill groups (less than
10%).
4
However, a considerable gender difference exists among the salaries of
high-skilled workers (Albrecht
et al
., 2014).
On the contrary, in the US mothers are entitled to only 12 weeks of unpaid
leave.
5
Blau and Kahn (2013) argue that this scheme can partly explain the
decline in US women's relative position in the labor force participation
internationally (see Table 1).
6
However, these authors also suggest that the
shorter leave may be responsible for the smaller occupational segregation by
gender and the larger presence of women in top-positions in the US relative to
most other OECD countries (Blau, Ferber and Winkler 2010).
7
Table 1
Male and female labor market indicators
1990
2010
US
Non-US
US
Non-US
Male labor force participation
93.4
94
89.3
92.5
Female labor force participation
74
67.1
75.2
79.5
Male part-time work incidence
2.8
3.1
3.9
5.1
Female part-time work incidence
14.7
25.8
13.1
26
Note: Non-US countries include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,
Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Source:
Table 1 and 2 in Blau and Kahn (2013).
Differences in labor market outcomes between men and women are large
and persistent in many countries. In 2012 the average gender wage gap in the
OECD was 15.2% and the difference in full-time employment was 22.4%.
These gaps vary across countries and most of them are driven by the behavior of
3
Of the total paid leave, 390 days, 60 days are reserved for each parent.
4
OECD (2015) Family Dataset.
5
The US mandate dates to the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.
6
In 1990, the US women's labor force participation rate of 74 percent was the 6
th
highest among
the countries considered in Table 1. As of 2010, US women ranked 17
th
of 22.
7
In 2013, the share of females in managerial occupations was 43.4% in the US while it was
30.8% in the non-US countries in Table 1. Source: OECD 2015 Family Database.
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women around childbirth (Low and Sánchez-Marcos 2015). Figure 2 shows the
employment rate of women with at least one child and that of all women aged
25-54. The differences are substantial, in particular among the group with
school age children.
Figure 2
Maternal employment rates
Note: Employment rates for women (15-64 years old) with at least one child aged 0-14 and
for all women aged 25-54. Data for the year 2013.
Source:
OECD (2015) Family Database.
The economic design of parental leave policies also differs across countries.
The duration of paid maternal leave ranges from more than 1 year in most
Scandinavian countries to less than 4 months in countries such as Spain,
Switzerland or Turkey (see Figure 3). Despite the complex effects of family
policies on female labor supply and gender equality, the majority of OECD
countries have increased the length of paid leave available to mothers. On
average, the duration has increased from 17 weeks in 1970 to 39 weeks in 1990
and 52 weeks in 2014 (see Figure 3).
Since 2010 the majority of European countries have implemented parental
leave entitlements for fathers which are not transferable to mothers (see Figure
4). However there is substantial variation in their design and duration. For
instance, in Norway and Iceland fathers have right to 12 weeks of paid leave
while in Spain to only 2.
8
Paternity leave policies are designed to increase fathers' involvement in
childcare activities and reduce gender specialization within the family (Becker
1965 and 1985). Time off work exclusively reserved for fathers to care for
children may facilitate women's re-entry into paid employment. Moreover, if
men are equally likely than women to take parental leave statistical
discrimination against women should also decrease or disappear (Lazear and
8
For more details on the design of parental, maternity and paternity leave policies across OECD
countries visit "
www.oecd.org/els/family/PF2_5_Trends_in_leave_entitlements_around_childbirth_Annex.pdf"
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Rosen 1990). Thus the allocation of a portion of the leave to fathers that cannot
be transferred to mothers seems a promising instrument to reduce gender
imbalances in the labor market and at home.
Figure 3
Length of paid leave available to mothers, 1970, 1990 and 2014
Note: Information refers to weeks of paid maternity leave and any weeks of paid parental
leave and paid home care leave that are available to mothers.
Source:
OECD (2015) Family Database.
The next section summarizes the economic content of parental leave policies
and their implications for labor supply and household behavior. Section 3
provides a survey of the literature that empirically investigates the short and
long-term effects of parental leave periods exclusively reserved for fathers. The
paper concludes with some final remarks in Section 4.
Figure 4
Length of paid leave reserved for fathers, 1970, 1990 and 2014
Note: Information refers to entitlements to paternity leave, "father quotas" or periods of
parental leave that can be used only by the father and cannot be transferred to the
mother, and any weeks of sharable leave that must be taken by the father in order
for the family to qualify for "bonus" weeks of parental leave.
Source:
OECD (2015) Family Database.
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2. THE ECONOMICS OF PARENTAL LEAVE POLICIES
Parental leave regulations are an important element of family policies in
most OECD countries. Leave policies not only promote the health of new
mothers and their children, but also assist parents in managing employment
obligations in the presence of young children. Maternity leave mandates have
traditionally been the core of family policies, but over the last 20 years paternity
provisions have also become more common. This section investigates the
economic implications of these policies.
Maternity leave provisions are periods of job absence (paid or unpaid)
exclusively entitled to mothers. More precisely, they allow mothers to leave
their workplace for a limited amount of time around childbirth and give them
the right to return to their previous employer afterward. By 2013 the vast
majority of countries had adopted statutory provisions for paid maternity leave
(ILO 2014). However, there is substantial cross-country variation in the design
of the mandates. For example, since the introduction of the Family and Medical
Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993 most women in the US can benefit from 12 weeks
of (unpaid) leave. In contrast, in Germany women are eligible for 3 years of
(partially) paid leave. During the last decades, most developed economies have
increased the duration of maternity leave (see Figure 3). Despite this gradual
shift towards extended maternity coverage, the implications on female labor
market outcomes are not fully understood.
An extension of the job protected period should delay the return-to-work
decision by mothers and have a negative impact on female labor force
participation in the period immediately surrounding childbirth (Klerman and
Leibowitz 1997). This short-run effect is mechanical and intended by the design
of the policy. Most of the empirical evidence confirms that an extended paid
leave encourages mothers to stay off work longer and lowers employment and
labor earnings immediately after birth (Rossin-Slater
et al.,
2013, Lalive and
Zweimüller 2009, Baker and Milligan 2008 and Berger and Waldfogel 2004).
In the long-run two opposing mechanisms lead to a theoretically ambiguous
effect on female labor force participation. On the one hand, a longer leave may
encourage mothers' job continuity (Baker and Milligan 2008). That is, when
job-protected periods are too short some mothers may prefer to stay home with
their children and lose the employment guarantee. However, the utility to stay
home declines with the child's age, and mothers may be willing to return to their
pre-birth job as the child ages. Therefore, a sufficiently large maternity leave
period could encourage women's continuity in the job. On the other hand,
prolonged job absences make women less valuable in the labor market due to
human capital depreciation (Becker 1985, Ruhm 1998). As a result, women
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could delay even further their re-employment decision.
9
It may also be that as
mothers spend more time with their children they enjoy it more and want to
spend even more time with them (Schönberg and Ludsteck 2014). Thus the
overall effect of extended maternity leave periods on mother's labor supply is
ambiguous.
These two opposing mechanisms also affect mothers' long-term earnings
profiles. Fist, extended job protected rights induce women to postpone their
return to work. Thus women have less time to accumulate labor experience and
may lose more skills while at home (i.e. human capital depreciation). Second,
more generous leave policies may allow mothers to benefit from pre-birth job
experiences, maintain good job matches, and progress in their career within the
firm (i.e. retain firm- or occupation specific human capital (Waldfogel, 1998)).
Therefore, the overall effects on long-term earnings are theoretically
ambiguous.
The existing evidence is mixed and probably affected by the idiosyncrasies
of each policy, country and most responsive groups in the population (Lalive
et
al.,
2014). For example, in Austria prolonged leave reforms increased the
proportion of women who never returned to work after childbirth, but did not
seem to hurt mothers' employment and earnings over an extended horizon
(Lalive and Zweimüller 2009; Lalive
et al.,
2014). Similar results are reported
by Schönberg and Ludsteck (2014) for five major expansions in maternity leave
coverage in Germany.
For the US, the impact of the 1993 US Family and Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) which guaranteed a job protected unpaid maternity leave of 12 weeks
had no effect on the employment and wages of mothers (Baum 2003). In
contrast, there is some suggestive evidence that the introduction of a paid leave
in California in 2004 increased the number of hours worked and wages of
mothers of 1 to 3 year-old children.
For Europe, Ruhn (1998) investigated the economic consequences of paid
parental leave over the 1969 through 1993 period and reported that paid
protected job-absences were associated to increases in women's employment,
but that extended durations reduced women's wages in the long-term. An
interesting result for Germany is that the negative effect on women's post-birth
wages seems to be driven by the negative selection of those who return to work
after giving birth (Ejrnaes and Kunze, 2013).
10
The detrimental effects on the employment and earnings opportunities of
mothers may also be demand driven. Extended parental leave periods may lead
9
The decision to return to work will be a function of women's reservation wages.
10
Mothers who suffer from relatively large wage losses in connection with birth are those
relatively more likely to return to full-time employment after birth.
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employers to engage in statistical discrimination against women if investing in
men is considered safer due to their lower job-absence probability. This form of
discrimination may be particularly important in high-level positions that require
strong commitment and flexibility.
11
A generous parental leave system
encourages women to take long periods of leave and to be less flexible with
respect to hours once they return to work. Thus employers will place relatively
few women in high-level positions. Also, if there is negative selection among
women who return to work relatively shortly after birth, firms may have
excessively low expectations about the mean productivity of all mothers
(Ejrnaes and Kunze 2013).
To promote gender equality both in the labor market and within the family
several countries have introduced policy reforms that encourage men's take-up
and share of parental leave. A key element of these policies is the allocation of a
portion of the paid leave to the father that is non-transferable to the mother, so
that fathers who do not use their "quota" lose it (i.e. the "father or daddy"
quota).
The entitlement of individual rights to parental leave seems to have a larger
impact on fathers' take-up rate than policies that allow both parents to choose.
For example, Sweden was the first country to grant fathers and mothers equal
access to paid leave in 1974. However, few men took parental leave and a non-
transferable one-month paid father's quota was introduced in 1995.
12
The reform
increased the take-up rate by fathers from 9% to 47% (Ekberg
et al.,
2013).
Another example is Iceland that has one of the longest periods of paid paternity
leave (3 months). In 2009, 96 percent of fathers took leave for every 100
mothers, using an average of 99 days compared to 178 for women (ILO 2014).
More equitable parental leave policies should tend to equalize the probability
of both parents to take time off to care for children. In this context, investments
in training provide the same returns for men than women. Thus employers'
hiring or promotion decisions should not be gender biased (Lazear and Rosen
1990 and Phelps 1972).
Periods of leave exclusively reserved for fathers should also give them the
opportunity to share more time with their children and develop more emotional
linkages and child-rearing skills. This is expected to change the allocation of
time within the family, leading to a lower specialization of women in domestic
and child-related activities (Becker 1965, 1985 and Rosen 1983). A less gender-
specific home production model should also affect employers' views regarding
their female employees.
11
Extended absence and lack of flexibility are particularly costly for employers when employees
hold top jobs (Goldin 2014).
12
The quota was extended to 2 months in 2002.
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In addition, the legal entitlement to fathers of a portion of the parental leave
reduces household bargaining regarding work career interruptions. With shared
leaves parents have to reach an agreement regarding who temporarily drops out
from the labor force to assume the new family responsibilities. Under these
leave schemes women tend to be the main takers. Instead, the "father or daddy"
quota establishes the number of weeks fathers can be on leave, potentially
reducing within household disputes and increasing marital stability
(Steingrimsdottir and Vardardottir 2014).
Finally, periods entitled exclusively to fathers may potentially affect their
labor market outcomes. Without individual entitlements, job-absences for
childcare can be seen as a signal of low commitment with the professional
career. There is evidence that when the leave is shared according to family
preferences, men who take it are penalized after returning to work (Waldfogel
1998). In contrast, the quota for fathers introduces stigma against those who do
not use the opportunity to spend more time with their children (Dahl
et al.,
2014).
The next section summarizes the experiences of countries that have recently
introduced paternity leave mandates and their implications for gender equality
in several labor and non-labor market outcomes.
3. EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE ON THE EFFECTS OF PATERNITY
LEAVE
In order to promote gender equality in the labor market and a more balanced
share of family tasks between working parents, the European Union Parental
Leave Directive 2010/18 recommended the introduction of non-transferable
parental leave periods entitled exclusively to fathers. This section summarizes
the experience of countries that have implemented these measures. The analysis
is conditioned by the availability of studies and data.
Norway was one of the first countries to introduced parental leave rights
entitled to fathers. In 1993 the period of paid leave was extended to 42 weeks, 4
of which reserved to the father (Rege and Solli 2013). Sweden has one of the
most generous parental leave schemes (Ekberg
et al.,
2013). In 1995 the "daddy
month" was instituted, reserving 1 month out of 12 for the father. A second
daddy month was added in 2002.
Since 2001 Iceland gives men the largest non-transferable share of parental
leave in the world. In this country, 3 months are reserved to the father, 3 months
to the mother, and 3 additional months can be freely allocated between parents
(Steingrimsdottir and Vardardottir 2015). In 2006 the Canadian region of
Quebec established a "daddy quota" whereby 5 weeks of leave out of 55 were
set aside for the father and could not be transferred to the mother (Patnaik
2015). The most recent reform took place in Germany, where 2 out of 14
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months of paid leave are reserved for the father since 2007 (Kluve and Tamm
2013).
1) Fathers' participation in parental leave
The introduction of leave options that are specifically designed for fathers
should have a first order effect on men's take-up rate of parental leave. This is
supported by the evidence in all studied cases.
In Germany, the introduction of the 2 months "daddy quota" led to an
increase in fathers' parental leave participation from 4% to 16% (Kluve and
Tamm 2013). For Norway, Rege and Solli (2013) find that the 4 weeks of
paternity leave increased participation from less than 3% prior to 1993 to about
60% in 1995. In Iceland the participation of men in parental leave is high and
has grown much faster than in other countries. Between 2001 and 2005 the
share of fathers that applied for the quota increased from 50% to almost 90%. In
Sweden, Ekberg
et al.
(2013) also find that the "daddy month" increased leave
days for fathers by 15 (around 50%). Finally, in Canada the reform led to an
increase in men's claim rates of 53% and increased their leave duration by 3
weeks.
There is evidence that participation in paternity leave exhibits important peer
effects. Dahl
et al.
(2014) using detailed administrative data for Norway find
that fathers are more likely to take parental leave if their brothers or coworkers
have done so. The authors provide convincing evidence that the most likely
mechanism driving this result is the lack of information about employers'
reaction to job absences for childcare.
The previous evidence clearly indicates that parental leave entitlements
reserved to fathers and non-transferable to mothers (i.e. "use-it or lose-it" quota)
are an effective measure to increase men's participation in parental leave. The
evidence also suggests that few fathers decide to take more leave than the
minimum amount of time provided by the regulation.
2) Gender division of housework and marital stability
A sufficient large period of paid leave exclusively reserved to fathers could
affect the distribution of time within the family, leading to less specialization of
women in household and child-care related activities.
In a cross-country study Boll
et al.
(2014) using the Multinational Time Use
Study compare changes in time devoted to childcare by fathers in a group of
countries that introduced individual entitlements to parental leave between 1971
and 2005.
13
Their results suggest that one extra exclusive parental leave week
13
The countries in the analysis are Canada, Finland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway,
Sweden and the United Kingdom.
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for fathers increased a highly educated father's time with his child by roughly 7
minutes per week. No effects are identified for fathers with lower levels of
education.
The country case studies allow a more detailed analysis of the short and
long-term effects of the periods of leave reserved for fathers. In Sweden, while
the reform had important short-term effects on fathers' take-up rates, no
behavioral effects are identified within the family. In particular, fathers did not
take longer shares of parental leave to care for sick children, which is the
measure of long-term involvement in housework in Ekberg
et al.
(2013).
Similarly for Germany, Schober (2014) and Kluve and Tamm (2013) find that
the two "daddy month" quota increased the take-up rate but that fathers were
not more involved in childcare beyond the period of leave after birth.
In contrast, Patnaik (2015) in Canada reports large and persistent effects on
gender dynamics within the household 1 to 3 years after the introduction of the
reform. Both parents increased their participation in non-market activities,
although fathers increased their time by more than mothers. Specifically, fathers
spent 37 minutes longer in non-market work per day while mothers reduced
their time in housework by 18 minutes and increased their time in childcare by
48, leading to an increase of 30 minutes in total non-market work. Since fathers
increased non-market work more than mother do, the reform should have led to
a reduction of female specialization in home production.
In Norway, there is also evidence that the "daddy quota" led to a more equal
division of the task of washing clothes, the most unequally shared task in the
house. Also individuals affected by the reform reported much fewer conflicts
regarding the division of household chores. More marital satiability was also
documented in Iceland. After the reform spouses entitled to paternity leave were
less likely to divorces during the first years of child's life, the period when most
divorces take place (Steingrimsdottir and Vardardottir 2014).
This evidence indicates that the quota incentivizes fathers' involvement in
housework, though not necessarily in childcare activities. The results also
suggest that while fathers spend more time with their children when they are on
leave, it is not the case in all countries that the greater involvement continues
beyond the take-up period after birth.
3) Fathers' labor market outcomes
The introduction of a parental leave quota exclusively reserved for fathers
may have a detrimental effect on their work career if they shift time and effort
from market to home production (Becker 1985). The previous evidence
indicates that while the take-up rate of fathers increases in response to the
reforms, their involvement in long-term care activities is not yet confirmed.
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Most of the studies are not able to identify any effect of the "daddy quota"
on the labor market earnings or employment rate of men. The reform does not
seem to have any effect on the labor market prospects of fathers in Germany
(Kluve and Tamm 2013) or Sweden (Ekberg
et al.,
2013). In Iceland,
Steingrimsdottir and Vardardottir (2015) also find no effect on male and female
earnings separately, but they do report a negative effect of the quota on the
earnings gap between couples where male spouse enjoyed an earnings
advantage over their partner.
Small negative effects are reported for the 1993 Norwegian reform (Rege
and Solli 2013). In this country, the 4 weeks of paternity leave during the child's
first year represented a decrease in fathers' future earnings of about 1.4% to
2.2%. For Canada there is also suggestive evidence that after the reform
exposed fathers spent less time in paid work and experienced a not insignificant
reduction in personal income (Patnaik 2015).
4) Mothers' labor market outcomes
The introduction of the non-transferable leave for fathers should provide
more opportunities for the professional development of mothers. However, few
studies have been able to identify important effects on the labor market
outcomes of women.
For countries such as Sweden and Germany, the previous evidence does not
suggest important changes in household behavior in response to the father's
quota. Thus it is not surprising that the reported effects on women's employment
rate or labor market earnings are, if any, small and disappear in the long-term
(Ekberg
et al.,
2013 and Kluve and Tamm 2013). In contrast, in Canada the
introduction of the quota substantially affected household dynamics. Patnaik
(2015) estimates that after the reform mothers worked 1.35 more hours per
week and their annual income increased by about 5,819 CAD - an increase of
over 25% of the baseline income.
In Norway, the evidence also suggests changes in household behavior driven
mainly by a greater involvement of fathers in non-market activities. In this
country, mothers responded to the reform by increasing their time devoted to
non-market work (Cools
et al.,
2015). This finding points towards a possible
complementarity between fathers and mothers' time at home.
5) Policy design and cultural heritage
The previous evidence reveals differences across countries in the response to
the introduction of periods of parental leave reserved for fathers. This may be
partly explained by the design of each national policy. For instance, in Canada
the "daddy" quota represented 5 additional weeks to the shared parental leave,
which was previously not exhausted by most mothers (Patnaik 2015). On the
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contrary, in Sweden the 4 weeks reserved for the father were subtracted from
the previously shared parental leave period. In this country the introduction of
the quota altered a binding constraint as most mothers exhausted the parental
leave prior to the reform. Therefore, it is not clear whether fathers in Sweden
responded to their individual right to take leave or whether families were simply
trying to maximize leave, which made it necessary for fathers to participate.
In addition, the division of tasks within the household has been traditionally
guided by a specialization pattern in which men are the main breadwinners and
women the providers of care. A less gender-specialized home production model
also requires a change in attitudes or believes regarding the role of men and
women in the society. Previous evidence suggests that culture and believes
evolve slowly over time (Farré and Vella 2013 or Alesina
et al.,
2013), thus a
longer time horizon may be necessary to observe a more drastic change in
household behavior in response to the "father" quota.
4. CONCLUSIONS
This paper argues that the current design of parental leave policies may
perpetuate gender imbalances within the family and at the workplace. It
documents that extended maternity leave mandates, while increasing female
employment, may have a detrimental effect on women's post-birth earnings and
career opportunities.
Periods of parental leave exclusively reserved for fathers and non-
transferable to mothers are presented as a useful policy instrument to alter the
gender-specialization home production model and increase women's
opportunities in the workplace. The existing evidence indicates that a quota
reserved for fathers provides strong short-term incentives to increase their
participation in parental leave. However their effectiveness to increase fathers'
long-term involvement in childcare and household work has not yet been
confirmed in most countries.
The large cultural component that governs the division of market and non-
market activities within the family may delay the effects of the reforms. In
addition, family policies have to be carefully designed. For instance, there is
evidence that the "father" quota has larger effects if the reserved weeks are
added to the existing shared parental leave instead of subtracted from it. As
more countries introduce changes in their family policies there will be more
scope to further evaluate the magnitude of their effects on household behavior
and gender equality.
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