The introduction of a daddy quota of leave in Quebec in 2006, along with expanded eligibility and increased payments, has dramatically increased leave-taking by fathers, according to new research.
The study also found that in the years after the leave was taken, increased the amount of housework fathers do, led to mothers transferring time from housework to childcare, and increased breastfeeding rates. The total amount of parental childcare in families increased.
The research was carried out by Dr Ankita Patnaik, an Edinburgh University economics graduate who is now a researcher at Mathematica Policy Research in Washington D.C.
In 2006 Quebec left the national Canadian system of parental leave and set up the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP). The new scheme expanded eligibility or leave-taking, particularly for low-income women, increased the wage replacement rate from 55% to 70% of income, raised the cap on maximum benefits from $412 to $767 per week, and established a 5-week “daddy quota” of paid leave for fathers.
The changes in numbers were:
– Fathers’ take-up of parental leave increased by 247% from 21.3% to 74%. The time they took increased on average from two weeks to just over five weeks. That means that the total amount of leave taken by Quebec fathers increased by nearly nine times. Meanwhile they worked and earned only a little less on average.
– Mothers’ take-up of the better paid parental leave increased by 16%.
– Fathers increased the amount of housework they did by 23%, including routine tasks, in the three years after the leave was taken. Mothers also increased domestic work by 9%, but they spent less time on housework and more on childcare. The amount of time fathers on average spent at home rose by half an hour a day, while the amount of time mothers spent at home decreased by half an hour a day.
– The probability of a mother breastfeeding six months or more increased by 17%, and the probability of exclusive breastfeeding for 12 weeks or more increased by 35%. Because of the improvements in eligibility and payment introduced, these increases in breastfeeding were greater among single and less-educated mothers. Patnaik is doing more research on this at present.
Duncan Fisher of the organisation WorkCareShare commented: “It is interesting that the increased eligibility and increased payments to families, which applied equally to women and men, led to an increase in leave-taking by mothers of 16% and of fathers by 247% – this despite the fact that, given men earn more than women on average, the cost to the family of fathers taking more leave is greater than for mothers taking more leave. Before the changes, 60% of families left a month of parental leave unused and both mothers and fathers could have used this, but did not. It was the “daddy only” label that effected the change. The take-up of transferable maternity leave (misnamed Shared Parental Leave) is currently 2% in the UK nd one of the key arguments against introducing the “daddy quota” is that it might reduce maternal care and breastfeeding.”
Dr Patnaik says: “It could be the the label [of a daddy quota] reduced stigma against fathers taking leave, making it appear to be a normal expectation. It could also be that giving fathers an individual entitlement emboldened them to request leave from their employer or made them feel guilty about not using this generous allowance to bond with their baby. This is important for future policy design, as it suggests that labeling may play an important role in influencing programme participation.”