GRSJ224/Differences in Parental Leave During Pregnancy

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Paternal Leave

Parental leave is something that is becoming more common for countries to make available for workers having children. Parental leave can be explained by giving workers who are expecting a child time off work either during pregnancy or afterwards. These programs can offer paid leave and some offer paid leave which is a fraction of the normal wage. Using the OECD Family Database, there are roughly 40 countries that offer some type of parental leave when a baby is on the way. When identifying what countries have polices that have some type of parental leave, those countries will have either: Maternal leave and/or short-term leave that allows an absence period from work around the time of pregnancy Paternity leave that is meant for men around the time of the pregnancy Parental leave that is available for both parents during the time of the pregnancy and after birth Those 40 countries have some form of maternal leave. Maternal leave is giving the mother paid absence from work during and after the pregnancy. Only 32 of those countries offer paternal leave. Paternal leave is giving the father paid leave from work during and after the pregnancy.

Parental Leave and the Economy

Economically giving paid leave to parents is seen as detrimental to the company. Granted the company will lose a worker for an extended period of time and that worker’s work load will have to be allocated elsewhere. Productivity will potentially be affected. Furthermore, the individual will be missing time from work. If policies aren’t in place to allow for paid parental leave, then the only beneficiaries will be the ones that can afford to take time off without pay. Contrarily, if paid leave is available there can sometimes be incentives for couples to have children. That is why some countries offer paid leave but some stipulations can affect the parents decision to use it. Those include:

·Demotions and/or salary changes

·Paid leave (Which is a percentage of the normal salary/hourly rate)

·Job loss

Countries like Korea and Japan who offer 52 weeks of paid paternal leave are the world leaders. However these leaves are paid at rates of 31.0% and 58.4% respectively of the normal salary. Combined with that and the gender norms associated with fathers taking time off work during the pregnancy, only 2% of eligible candidates take advantage of paternal leave. In contrast, a country like Sweden (which offers 10 paid weeks of paternal leave at 18.9% of the pay), 90% of eligible fathers take advantage of the opportunity. Differences in culture and societal expectations can really affect the decisions of fathers to take time of work. According to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report in 2014 Sweden is one of the best rated countries (Rated 4th) when it comes to gender equality while Korea and Japan score 117 and 104 respectively.


Studies have been done to gauge the affect of parental absence during infancy. The Norwegian reform that happen fro 1992-1993 that made paternal leave possible, was studied in the Journal of Economics (2015). Cohorts of students that would have been the first beneficiaries of the policy change were studied. Results showed that children that had father’s that took time off during infancy had better grades in elementary schooling.

There is also research that suggests the importance of maternal/paternal leave and the combination of both. A study done in France (2012) studied postpartum depression that can affect both the father and mother. Postpartum depression related to a depressed feeling that parents can feel after the birth of their child. Results showed that taking time off from work during pregnancy and after birth can reduce the rates of postpartum depression. Some mothers that are faced with taking time off work and having to deal with the duties of infancy alone are at higher risk of postpartum depression. There is some positive correlation between parental leave and well-being of parents. Parents working together to take time off during pregnancy can benefit the parents’ well-being, the child’s knowledge intake and can have a positive effect on their work moral knowing that their child is getting the proper care.

Gender Differences

Statistical Discrimination is when companies can offer lower wages to women because of possible maternal leave that is available to them. That can often give companies the incentive to hire men is there is no paternal leave available to them. Establishing similar programs that equal parental leave time can possibly cut down on this practice.

Cultural women are more likely to take time off during the duration of the pregnancy and infancy. Based on the amount of countries that provide maternal leave versus the ones that offer paternal leave, maternal leave is more common and therefore a more established gender expectation. The problem with this is that families and their children benefit more from both parents being able to absorb the added workload of parenthood. An ideal scenario would enable both parents to take time off but gender norms have added pressure upon men to not leave the workplace. Women also feel pressure to leave the workplace in order to properly care for their child. Changing these pressures can help the distribution of labour within the household. Improving paternal leave policies can also help women focus on their job if they are in a critical point of their career. Sometimes leaving work may not be the best option or is not a realistic option if pay-cuts are in order. Equalling parental leave rights can improve gender gaps involving wage and employment if both parents are comfortably able to take time of work to care for their child.

Fathers aren’t given the same priority when pregnancy leaves are taken into account. The global average of paid weeks of maternity leave is substantially more than the average of paid weeks for paternal leave. If fathers were able to take more time of, this would help take stress off women, provide more equality within gender divisions of labour, and benefit the child’s infancy.


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