A man's place is at work: 20-day paternity leave reinforces parenthood norms

A man's place is at work: 20-day paternity leave reinforces parenthood norms
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For all the contemporary focus on gender equality and reconsidering conventional tropes, Belgian fathers still believe their main role within a family is to work and that mothers should be responsible for the majority of childcare, according to a recent survey the VUB's TOR research group conducted among men.

Researchers wanted to gauge the impact that paternity and maternity leave may have on the gender pay gap and in particular the distribution of gender roles within Belgian households.

The survey's findings were communicated by the women's rights organisation ZIJKrant and released on Equal Pay Day, which this year was calculated to fall on Monday 20 March. This date indicates the number of additional days women would have to work in order to receive the same annual salary as men in 2022. This year, the figure came at 79 extra days.

The group questioned 88 Belgian men who became fathers in the past five years; most of them could not see themselves taking more time off for their newborns than the allocated 20 days of paternity leave. The number of legally-entitled days was increased this year. For comparison, women are given 15 weeks of maternity leave.

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The respondents said that they use their time off to support their partners rather than care for the child. They indicated a widespread intention to get back to work as soon as possible. Fathers believe that most employers do not offer the same support for paternity leaves and fear this will negatively impact their careers.

All the same, respondents would gladly have taken longer paternity leaves if this were enshrined in law.

ZIJKrant also called for the Belgian working week to be reduced to 30 hours, arguing that this will not only enable both men and women to pursue their careers but also give them the time necessary to raise a family.

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