Headlines suggest that support for paid paternity leave is soaring.
Through a closer look, let’s see what else we need to know.
Paid Paternity Leave
When we last looked at paternity leave, dads in Norway were our focus. In 1992, Norway passed legislation that encouraged new dads to take parental leave. Norway’s paternity benefit reserved four weeks only to the father. He could take it or lose it.
You can see below that leave take-up numbers surged. For new dads, participation rose from five percent to 50 percent:
According to recent research, the dads that take parental leave have better relationships with their children, fewer divorces, and less stressed wives. In addition, the research that focused on Norwegian dads found that those that took paid leave suffered a career pay penalty because of the competition effect. As they explained, when men are absent from a job, others step in to make sure everything gets done. However, if those others are the absent dad’s competitors, in the future, his “paychecks” will be 2 percent less than they would have been. But the researchers also found the pay loss was negligible when his co-workers were on leave.
In other words, for paternity leave to work, everyone needs to do it.
And yet, OECD statistics indicate we do not yet have that vast participation. Comparing moms and dads, for women, the average is 18.5 weeks while for their partners, 2.3.
The following graphic for paid parental leave as of April 2022 displays the gender gap:
Our Bottom Line: Social Norms
I suspect that a U.K. experiment gave us the best reason for the limited paternity leave uptake.
As you might expect, it’s social norms.
Defined as predictable or appropriate behavior, a social norm can shape how we act. In experiments with prospective moms and dads, researchers created shorter and longer leave scenarios. When told the leave weeks were low, the men and women shortened their leave. However, when advised that people took more leave, the men increased the days they planned to stay home while the women’s level remained constant.
My sources and more: Father’s Day reminded me it was time to return to paternity leave complexities. Ranging from OECD statistics to this NY Times article and this 2021 study so much is available. Then, as the next step, this paper on social norms completes the picture.
Please note that several of today’s sentences were in a previous econlife post.