Paternity Leave

Paternity leave seems to be on the rise

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Paternity leave on the rise is logically a good thing, I’d argue. Here’s some new-ish stats: in 1994, men in the U.S. were taking two weeks or more of paternity leave at a rate of around 5,800 per month. In 2015, it was 22,000 per month. That data is from the Census Bureau and Department of Labor.

The other side of the narrative shifting here is that men are increasingly working from home more than women. When you combine those two stats, dads are taking a more active role in parenting than in previous generations.

Now, of course every situation is different. Some families lack a conventional dad/mom. I’m speaking here in general terms, not necessarily specific to your own situation. I definitely don’t mean to alienate anyone.

The paternity leave picture globally

The U.S. is actually not considered to have effective paternity leave, despite being an advanced economy. Some of the best policies reside in Sweden and Estonia, with Swedish dads getting 90 paid paternity leave days. Ninety! Nine-zero.

In the U.S. right now, there is an increased discussion — led in part by Ivanka Trump — around paternity and maternity leave. The Wall Street Journal actually opposed her ideas, then she responded. The issue is nuanced and some of it ties to how you perceive gender and parenting roles, but economically there’s one important note. A paternity leave program only helps to solve gender pay gap issues (one of the topics here) if men take as much leave as women. That doesn’t always happen, which is tied up in how we assign gender roles to work.

Again, it’s complicated and each family is going to think on it differently — but it’s important.

Why is paternity leave important?

A personal view:

This is your time to continue the conversations you had with your unborn child. In most cases baby will recognize that voice and will be comforted to know that dad is still here. During this period, you really need it to dedicate your time to you and baby. So shut the blinds, accept no visitors and cuddle up with baby. This is a very crucial time for your relationship with your baby. I spent hours, shirt off – skin to skin with my baby boy. I wanted him to hear my heart beat, my voice, and to help him take his rightful place in the world.

The economic/academic view:

A study by the University of Oslo found that paternity leave improved children’s performance at secondary school; daughters, especially, seem to flourish if their dads had taken time off. But this tends to benefit children whose dads come from more advantaged backgrounds. Most paternity leave tends to be short and poorly paid so richer dads are more likely to take the time off.

Paternity leave is also good for women’s careers. When childcare responsibilities fall exclusively on the mother, the effect is to depress women’s wages. Time out of the labour force deprives them of experience and promotions. When men shoulder more of the childcare burden, the effect is lessened.

And now, if you feel so inclined, what’s your take on paternity leave?

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