Paternity Leave Is Good For The Economy & For Families

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux.
Last week, Richard Branson made headlines when he announced his new, generous parental leave policy for Virgin Management employees. The new plan gives both men and women, who have worked for his company for at least four years, a full 12 months of paid leave following the birth of a child. This week, MenCare released a report that supports Branson's policy, with data that suggests paid paternity leave is not only good for families, but for the world economy. The report, State of The World's Fathers: A MenCare Advocacy Publication, released on Tuesday, outlines a number of reasons why men should be encouraged to be equal partners in child-rearing and household chores. As more and more women enter the workforce, it's essential that the traditional family structure be disassembled and a new one be put forward. According to the study, worldwide, "women and girls carry out at least two and half times more unpaid care and domestic work than men and boys do, despite also being involved in paid and unpaid work outside the home." It's time to move away from the tradition of women being the primary caregivers. When men step up and pitch in at home, the whole world benefits.
The study shares several perks. Daughters of fathers who share household tasks equally are more likely to aspire to leadership positions. And their sons are more likely to accept and promote the idea of gender equality. Women with partners who are able to stay home in the first months after childbirth, reported feeling less stressed, and were healthier both mentally and physically. And then there are the economic benefits. When Sheryl Sandberg launched the #LeanInTogether campaign this spring, she shared data showing the staggering economic benefits of women working at the same rate as men. The MenCare report reminds us of those amazing numbers: "If women participated in the labor market at the same rates as men do, it is estimated that the gross domestic product (GDP) could increase in the United States by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the United Arab Emirates by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%." If you're not worried about the national GDP, then consider the personal economics. The report shares data from a study out of Sweden showing "that every month that fathers took paternity leave increased the mother’s income by 6.7%, as measured four years later, which was more than she lost by taking parental leave herself."
Chelsea Clinton, herself a new mother, was on-hand to give the opening remarks at the presentation of the report on Tuesday, and while she outlines all the positive findings from the study, she also notes that widespread change at a government level is needed in order to make equal parenting a reality. "[O]nly 92 countries have paid paternity leave, and for most, it’s measured in weeks not months," she said. "Yet, the report makes such a strong and powerful case for why paid paternity leave sends not only a strong philosophical message that parents have an equal stake in nurturing and raising of the children, from not only the early days, but the early weeks and the early months." Private companies are finally offering better parental leave policies, although taking time off, to care for an infant, shouldn't be a privilege. In a 2013 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. comes in last among 38 countries for providing paid support to working parents, giving full-time workers just 12 weeks of protected leave and zero paid time off (the median amount of paid time off was five-to-six months). As more and more presidential candidates announce their platforms for the 2016 elections, shouldn't this be a major issue? The numbers already prove that such a plan would benefit everyone. So why are we not making it a priority? Correction: In an earlier version of this piece, we incorrectly stated that the U.N. released the report on the state of the world's fathers. The organization MenCare produced the campaign in conjunction with Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice, with Rutgers, Save the Children, and the MenEngage Alliance serving as Steering Committee members. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information.

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