Mapping of fathers’ use of paternity and parental leaves in the Nordic countries

2009-07-17 There is a difference between fathers being on paternity leave at the same time as the mother is on leave and fathers being on parental leave alone. In studies about fathers on paternity leave it is important to distinguish between these two situations.

This is shown in researcher Anita Haataja’s study Fathers’ Use of Paternity and Parental Leave in the Nordic Countries. The results of her study reveal that Finnish fathers are those who use most paternity leave, while also being those who in the least cases share the parental leave. Icelanders are best at sharing the parental leave, followed by the Swedes and the Norwegians.

The results are, however, not quite straightforward, because the flexibility of the leave schemes has increased. For instance, that which is termed ‘parental leave’, may, in some countries, be used as paternity leave.

Paternity leave refers to the period of time that the father is entitled to be on leave in connection with the birth of his child. During these weeks the father is at home together with the mother. Confusing paternity leave with the share of the parental leave that fathers use is counter-productive if one is interested in finding out how the parents share the care of their child, Haataja writes. In this case, the interesting issue is fathers who are on parental leave, since they take care of their child alone while being at home.

When comparing the total number of days that the fathers stay at home with their children (both on paternity and parental leaves), Iceland tops the statistics – not just in the Nordic countries, but in the entire world. In Iceland, fathers use 31 per cent of all the days for which the parents receive compensation for staying at home with their children. The corresponding figure in Sweden is 22, in Norway 11, in Denmark and Finland 6 per cent.

Increasing participation by fathers in child care has long been on the political agenda in the Nordic countries. The politics of fathers’ leaves are, however, not very well known or analysed so far, Haataja writes and call for more research and comparable statistics on parental leaves among the Nordic countries.

By Jennie Westlund

Logotype Nordic Council of Ministers Logotype Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research Logotype University of Gothenburg