Podcast: Denmark’s paternity leave problem
Denmark has a child leave policy where the family is given one year of paid leave to split any way they want between the mother and father. While many companies there will offer fairly generous policies of several months, after that the government will subsidize pay at a percentage of normal pay.
They’re finding that the mothers take a majority of this time. There seem to be two main reasons for this: cultural and economic.
Culturally it’s viewed as a woman’s job to raise a child and care for the house – men don’t want to ask their bosses for leave or have to deal with their coworkers ridicule. The act of getting their partner pregnant causes them to have to bake a failure cake for their coworkers as a indication they have made a mistake.
Economically men make more income than women, so it makes sense for the women to use the leave policy.
However, this perpetuates the cycle that women are going to be taking a lot of leave for child care and men aren’t, which significantly contributes to the gender pay gap. Employers are less likely to want to hire women in their 20s and 30s assuming they’re going to take at least two years off on leave.
Iceland has addressed this problem by making a policy of obligatory 4 months of leave for each parent. The hope is that this reduces the hiring/pay discrimination against potential mothers by treating both genders equally with the obligation of child care and leave.