What happened to paternity leave?
Two thirds of children in the world live in countries where fathers aren’t allowed a single paid day off to spend with their newborns.
The first 1,000 days of life are the most critical stage of human development, both physically and cognitively and affectively, however, 90 million children under one year live in places where the father is not entitled to a single day of paid leave to take care of them.
Almost two thirds of babies in this age group worldwide, according to a UNICEF analysis, reside in the 92 countries that lack national policies that guarantee paid leave for men.
The so-called responsible care, that is, the interaction of a baby with a father, a mother or a caregiver that also includes play and talking, are just as important in early childhood as nutrition, health care, protection and early learning.
The need to have all of the attention cited above was highlighted by a series of articles published in the scientific journal The Lancet in 2016.
Unfortunately, children do not always enjoy these attentions.
Although it is difficult to determine the number of children who enjoy all of this, UNICEF estimates that 43% of children under five years of age, around 249 million, risk not reaching the most important stages of their development.
A growing number of parents from all over the world are beginning to raise their voices to demand their right not to miss the opportunity and miss the beginning of this critical phase, at the same time that private companies such as Ikea or ING try to make up for the lack of paternity rights in the legislation of several countries, offering periods of rest after the arrival of a child.
Several studies show that creating quality links during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life has an impact on the construction of healthier social relationships, in addition to improving psychological health and long-term self-esteem.
Evidence also indicates that when the father is linked to the baby from the beginning, he has a better chance of playing a more active role in its development.
The United Nations Children’s Fund applauds the creation and increase of paternity leave in any country in the world, but remembers that the ideal goal is for both parents to have six months, the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization, exclusively for breastfeeding.
The burden of caring for and stimulating a baby cannot rest on the woman alone and both the father and the mother have the right to create the same bond with the children from the first moments of life.
However, children organizations admit that there is still a cultural component that stops men from taking their leave.
In spite of the improvements registered in practically the whole world in the last two decades, there are more countries that grant longer maternity and paternity leave time, there are still many obstacles, both for men and for women.
Around 830 million workers lack sufficient protection and remuneration when it comes to becoming a mother, says the World Labor Organization. Almost 80% of them are found in Africa and Asia.
The pitfalls for men, on the other hand, have to do with the scarcity of paid parental and paternity leave and the lack of access to adequate facilities for breastfeeding and child care.
Things are starting to change little by little, but the devil is in the details. The fact that something is imposed by law does not necessarily mean that the objective of these policies is achieved.
The fact that parental leave is usually offered as a shared right, explains their organization in a 2014 report, greatly favors women over men.
But this trend can reduce the situation of women in the labor market and aggravate gender inequalities in the workplace and with respect to the distribution of household chores.
To reverse these negative effects, licenses for them are paid in a compulsory manner, as is the case, for example, in Chile, Italy or Portugal.
Policies must also take into account the difficulties of application in rural areas.
Another factor that can make a difference is that paid leave days can be spread over a certain period instead of being enjoyed uninterrupted.
A recent analysis made by UNICEF, reveals that Switzerland, Georgia, Cyprus and Albania are some of the few European countries to provide 14-week permits only for mothers.
Fathers, on the other hand, can opt for a day off for personal matters, equivalent to the permission for a move, for example.
Last October, the Swiss government refused to review the rules on this matter, arguing that the cost would be too high and would end up damaging the competitiveness of companies.
In Switzerland, measures are being worked out by father right groups to allow paid leave periods where fathers would receive 80% of the salary through insurance financed by employers and workers.