First State of the World’s Fathers report urges for bold steps

From Chile to Croatia, fathers want to spend more time with their kids

Iceland is at the top where men average 103 days of paid paternity leave

Only 92 countries offer leave that can be taken by new fathers

40 % of global workforce is women but do more domestic work than men

Men’s participation and support are urgently needed to ensure that all children are wanted children

The 1st State of the World’s Father (SOWF) report came up with some bold suggestions for transforming family and work dynamics. This exhaustive report published by MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign consisting of global surveys recommends the development of action plans globally and within countries to promote non-violent fatherhood and men’s and boys’ equal sharing of unpaid care work.

Inequalities persists

As the world celebrates Father’s Day on 21st of June in many countries, the SOWF report reveals long-lasting disparities. While there is a positive trend in women’s participation in the labour force, men’s unpaid care-giving lags behind. There is no country in the world where men and boys share the unpaid domestic and care work equally with women and girls. Women earn on average 24 percent less than men do, in large part due to their greater burden of care work. Case study from Sweden showed that every month a father takes paternity leave, the mother’s income increased by 6.7%.

The SOWF report states that women lose opportunities for work and income, and girls are often held back from educational opportunities, further entrenching gender inequality and gendered poverty. The report argues that gender equality will not be achieved unless men are engaged in the care of their children and families, which is not discussed in public policies and in public discourse.

Unpaid work ©SOWF

Time spent on unpaid work ©SOWF


Depriving the fathers

Around 80% of the world’s men and boys will become fathers in their lifetime, and virtually all men have at least some connection to children in care-giving relationships. The report reveals that a lack of supportive policies, particularly paternity leave for new fathers, is one major concern. Between 61 and 77% of fathers say they would work less if it meant that they could have more time
with their children. Maternity leave is now offered in nearly all countries, but only 92 countries offer leave for new fathers. In 50% of the countries, the leave is for less than three weeks.

The report points out the difference between paternity leave and paternal leave. While paternity leave is taken during and after child birth, paternal leave is the long term leave available in some countries taken for child care, domestic work and family time.

Where ever the state supported paternal leave benefits, the number of father’s making use of these leaves increased significantly. For instance, in Estonia, the number increased from 14 % to 50 % while in Norway, it shot up from 4 % to 80%. To support men’s care-giving and to ensure adequate care for children, leave provisions should be made universally available to men, regardless of
employment conditions and family configuration, argues SOWF report.

Parental leave across countries ©SOWF

Parental leave across countries ©SOWF

In terms of long term parental break, based on the ILO’s data, sixty-six of the 169 countries have long-term parental leave provisions for mothers or fathers, though 10 of these reserve the leave for mothers only. Only 54 countries provide parents with paid leave specifically to care for children’s health; nearly all of these countries are high or middle-income.

Different countries have devised various innovations for such leaves. Norway and Sweden allow single parents to use the entire two-parent share of paid leave, while in Azerbaijan, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Uzbekistan, parental leave can be used by the actual caregivers of the child, even when they are not the parents.

This report reaffirms that fathers matter for children and that care-giving is good for fathers and with it we want to begin to lay the groundwork to influence future policy and programs around the world that address the current lack of men’s and boys’ equitable participation in care-giving, and that address rigid ideas about gender – and the harm that these issues bring to women, to children, and to men themselves

Gary Barker, SOWF report author and International Director, Promundo

Child development

The report vouch from research that fathers’ involvement affects children’s development in much the same ways that mothers’ involvement does.Fathers’ involvement has been linked to higher cognitive development and school achievement, better mental health for boys and girls, and lower rates of delinquency in sons. Studies from multiple countries show that fathers’ interaction is important for the development of empathy and social skills in sons and daughters.

When fathers take on their fair share of the unpaid care work, it can alter the nature of the relationships between men and women and children, as both fathers and mothers will have more time for their children, women are released from some of their ‘double burden,’ and fathers get to experience the joys, satisfactions, and stresses of caring for their children

Nikki van der Gaag, feminist and SOWF report author

Breaking the cycle of violence

Violence within families is a major concern and the report strongly suggest that any efforts at promoting fathers’ involvement must include efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence.

Achieving gender equality requires a reconfiguration of power relations. That includes redefining our deeply-ingrained perceptions of masculinity and fatherhood. Fathers can help break the cycle of violence and discrimination against women by modeling non-violent behaviours and instilling values of equality, respect for diversity, empathy, and human rights for the next generation.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women

The GDP sense

Apart from the family front, the economies also stand to benefit with a more liberal policy for fathers as care-givers. A study on OECD countries estimated that closing the gap between women and men in the labour force would lead to an increase in GDP of 12 percent by 2030 across OECD countries. India’s GDP would be US$1.7 trillion higher if women worked outside the home at the same rate as men do. If women were able to participate in the job market at the same rates as men do, the GDP would increase in the United States by as much as 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the United Arab Emirates by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%.

The report says that there is a need to institute and implement equal, paid, and non-transferable parental leave policies in both public and private sectors, as well as other policies that allow women’s equal participation in the labour force and men’s equal participation in unpaid care work. In most countries employment in the formal sector helps in availing paternity leave benefits, meaning that a huge chunk of the global parents do not have the opportunity to avail the benefits.

The report is based on evidence from hundreds of studies covering all countries in the world with available data. An array of global organizations starting with the Clinton Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank and the UN supported the development and launch of the report.

MenCare is coordinated globally by Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice and jointly steered by Save the Children, Rutgers University, and the MenEngage Alliance. The SOWF report intends to provide a periodic, data-driven snapshot of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and care-giving globally by addressing four issues related to fatherhood: unpaid care work in the home; sexual and reproductive health and rights and maternal, newborn, and child health; men’s care-giving and violence against children and women; and child development.

Source for featured image: ©http://bit.ly/1xA0Di9. License: http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa. (Copyright Petras Gagilas/Flickr Creative Commons) Modified original

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