Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The politics of parental leave policies

The politics of parental leave policies: Children, parenting, gender and the labour market

Sheila B. Kamerman
Peter Moss
Copyright Date: 2009
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The politics of parental leave policies
    Book Description:

    With the growth of parental employment, leave policy is at the centre of welfare state development and at the heart of countries' child and family policies. It is widely recognised as an essential element for attaining important demographic, social and economic goals and is the point where many different policy areas intersect: child well-being, family, gender equality, employment and labour markets, and demography. Leave policy, therefore, gives a unique insight into a country's values, interests and priorities. International comparisons of leave policy are widely available, but far less attention has been paid to understanding the factors that bring about these variations. The politics of parental leave policies makes good this omission. Looking at parental leave policy within a wider work/family context, it addresses how and why, and by whom, particular policies are created and subsequently developed in particular countries. Chapters covering 15 countries in Europe and beyond and the European Union bring together leading academic experts to provide a unique insight into the past, present and future state of this key policy area. The politics of parental leave policies is essential reading for students, teachers and researchers in social policy, child and family policy, welfare states, gender relations and equality, and employment and labour markets, providing an opportunity to study in depth the creation of social policy. It will also be of interest to policy makers in national governments and international organisations.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-777-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. v-v)
    Sheila B. Kamerman and Peter Moss
  5. Notes on contributors
    (pp. vi-viii)
  6. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Peter Moss and Sheila B. Kamerman

    Entitlements to job-protected leave for parents are an important part of social policy in most developed countries, a necessary part of the tool-kit for running a modern state. With very few exceptions, today’s parent in these countries can expect the right to take leave at and around the time of childbirth (or, in most countries, adoption), then for a period of the child’s early years, and often to be paid by the state while taking that leave. In some cases, the parent can also expect to have the option to work reduced hours or to take time off work, often...

  7. TWO Australia: the difficult birth of paid maternity leave
    (pp. 15-32)
    Deborah Brennan

    The absence of a national system of paid maternity or parental leave in Australia presents a puzzle: how is it that a country once regarded as a ‘social laboratory’ and renowned for its progressive social and industrial legislation (Roe, 1976; Castles, 1998) does not provide this basic entitlement for working parents? Even if a minimalist scheme of paid leave is introduced in the next year or two, as seems likely following the election of a Labor government,² the lack of such leave to date requires explanation, especially since ‘work–life balance’ and ‘family policy’ have been prominent political issues for...

  8. THREE Canada and Québec: two policies, one country
    (pp. 33-50)
    Andrea Doucet, Lindsey McKay and Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay

    Within 3 miles of each other, two distinct policy regimes influence the first year of parenting in 2 Canadian families. On one side of the Ottawa River, in the city of Ottawa in the province of Ontario, Bill and Sarah Rogers welcomed their baby daughter Naomi 14 months ago. Sarah took 15 weeks’ maternity leave and most of the 33 weeks of parental leave (both at 55% of earnings); this is partly because she is breastfeeding and partly because Bill is the higher income earner and they need his full earnings. Like the majority of Canadian fathers, Bill did take...

  9. FOUR Czech Republic: normative or choice-oriented system?
    (pp. 51-68)
    Jiřina Kocourková

    Until 1992, the Czech Republic was a part of Czechoslovakia. Czechs and Slovaks shared the whole communist period as one country, as well as the onset of the fundamental economic and social changes that followed the collapse of this regime. The period of common history is taken only as the starting point for the main focus of the chapter: an analysis of policies in the Czech Republic since 1993. The pronatalist population policy practised before 1990 in Czechoslovakia is contrasted with the development of family policy after 1990.

    The chapter is divided into two sections. The first is historically organised...

  10. FIVE Estonia: halfway from the Soviet Union to the Nordic countries
    (pp. 69-86)
    Marre Karu and Katre Pall

    Social policies, including the leave policy of a particular country, do not develop in a vacuum. They are part of a political context and normally follow a rather consistent pathway. But in some societies, that gradual development can be sharply interrupted, sometimes when the political context undergoes a major rupture. This has happened twice in Estonia in living memory, bringing radical new directions, principles and ideals. However, despite the very different political regimes that have shaped Estonian social policies for 50 years, these policies, including leave policy, are now, at the beginning of 21st century, similar to the ones in...

  11. SIX Finland: negotiating tripartite compromises
    (pp. 87-102)
    Johanna Lammi-Taskula and Pentti Takala

    During the past four decades, the social partners – employers’ and employees’ organisations – have been significant negotiation partners with the state in designing social policy in Finland. These central labour market organisations have been involved in decisions about wages, taxes and social benefits as well as working times and schemes supporting work–family reconciliation. Social reforms have been promised by the state in exchange for moderate pay settlements that will promote employment and competitiveness.

    In an international context, Finland has been a mixed case regarding the relationship between the social partners and the political institutions. For example, in pension...

  12. SEVEN France: gender equality a pipe dream?
    (pp. 103-118)
    Jeanne Fagnani and Antoine Math

    Since the 1970s, a concerted effort has been made by successive French governments to promote social policies designed to enable mothers to juggle both family responsibilities and full-time employment. In particular, at the beginning of the 1980s as the Socialists swept into power, there was a marked increase in the level of funds being allocated for the construction of crèches by both local authorities and the Caisse Nationale des Allocations Familiales (CNAF, the National Family Allowance Office, discussed further below). This phenomenon coincided with, indeed was stimulated by, the entry of many mothers of young children into the paid labour...

  13. EIGHT Germany: taking a Nordic turn?
    (pp. 119-134)
    Daniel Erler

    As in many European countries, German parental leave legislation has been undergoing considerable changes in recent years, culminating in the introduction of a 12-month wage replacement benefit in 2007. When parental leave was introduced in West Germany in 1986, the primary aim of policy makers was to enable and actively encourage mothers to stay at home and care for their children during the first years of their life. The new income-related childrearing benefit (Elterngeld), by contrast, has the explicit purpose of reducing the length of child-related periods out of the labour market and of facilitating a stronger paternal involvement in...

  14. NINE Hungary and Slovenia: long leave or short?
    (pp. 135-158)
    Marta Korintus and Nada Stropnik

    Communist parties ruled in Hungary and Slovenia after the Second World War. Their ideology put women alongside men in the labour force, and mothers of young children were not exempt. Economic necessity and the desire for a decent standard of living also kept mothers in employment. Consequently, parental leave was regulated earlier and better than in many capitalist countries. This was also due to a shortage of childcare services, while, at the same time, migration to urban areas and small apartments contributed to less care by extended families.

    During the socialist years before 1989, there were rather high levels of...

  15. TEN Iceland: from reluctance to fast-track engineering
    (pp. 159-174)
    Thorgerdur Einarsdóttir and Gyda Margrét Pétursdóttir

    Parental leave in Iceland has been developing since the Second World War. Until recently it was a highly complex, patchwork system that distinguished between different groups of women and men, with various entitlements and payments. The rights of women depended on whether they worked in the public or private sector of the labour market; while the system provided certain groups of men with limited entitlements and totally excluded others. The parental leave reforms from the year 2000 brought revolutionary changes with 3 months’ leave for each parent, in addition to 3 months to share – a total of 9 months....

  16. ELEVEN The Netherlands: bridging labour and care
    (pp. 175-190)
    Janneke Plantenga and Chantal Remery

    Until recently, Dutch leave policies were very limited. The only policy was a 12-week pregnancy and maternity leave for married women, which was introduced by the Sickness Benefit Act of 1930. Yet by the end of the 20th century, as a result of changing family forms and labour market patterns, leave arrangements had become a major policy issue, with debates focusing on entitlement, length of leave and income support. The first important change was the extension of maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks in 1990. In 1991, parental leave was introduced, allowing for leave being taken on a part-time...

  17. TWELVE Norway: the making of the father’s quota
    (pp. 191-206)
    Berit Brandth and Elin Kvande

    Norway was the first country to reserve part of paid parental leave for fathers, making it a leader in parental leave policies and fathers’ rights. Gender-neutral parental leave had been available for fathers from the 1970s, but few had taken up this opportunity to share parental leave with the mother. The father’s quota, introduced in 1993, gave fathers an exclusive right to 4 weeks of parental leave, which in principle could not be transferred to the mother. From its very start, the father’s quota proved to be a success judging by its high take-up rate.

    Several other countries have since...

  18. THIRTEEN Portugal and Spain: two pathways in Southern Europe
    (pp. 207-226)
    Karin Wall and Anna Escobedo

    Much about the welfare state and family policy in Southern Europe has been analysed and reported on, but there has been no systematic effort to look in historical context at the evolution of policies and to understand the paths taken in some countries but not in others. As in other European countries, Spain and Portugal have moved away from policies focusing on the ‘traditional’ male breadwinner model (Crompton, 1999; Pfau-Effinger et al, 2009). However, reconciliation policies, and leave policies in particular, have not necessarily shifted at the same pace in both countries or in the same direction.

    The main aim...

  19. FOURTEEN Sweden: individualisation or free choice in parental leave?
    (pp. 227-242)
    Anders Chronholm

    The development of Swedish parental leave policy, first introduced in 1974, can be seen as an example of strategic actions from different political institutions. They starting point for this chapter is that political institutions not only act but also create cultural norms that influence public opinion (Rothstein, 2002). The development of Swedish parental leave policy also shows how an academic elite can produce a theoretical basis for political decisions (Klinth, 2002).

    That Sweden was the first country to introduce parental leave, instead of confining leave policy only to leave for mothers, could be explained as a result of the academic...

  20. FIFTEEN The European directive: making supra-national parental leave policy
    (pp. 243-258)
    Bernard Fusulier

    Both maternity leave and parental leave are the subjects of European Union (EU) legislation. In both cases, minimum standards are defined by law, not just nationally but cross-nationally. While there are some international standards on leave, for example the International Labour Organization’s Maternity Protection Convention, only the European Union sets legally enforceable supra-national standards that have been agreed by its member states, originally (in 1957) just six countries, today 27 with a combined population of half a billion people. Europe, therefore, brings us to an international politics of leave, where countries with very different welfare regimes have to try for...

  21. SIXTEEN Conclusion
    (pp. 259-272)
    Sheila B. Kamerman and Peter Moss

    This is a book about public policies targeted at young children, mainly but not exclusively under 3 years of age, and their families, and that treat parenting as a core issue for child, family and employment policies. Parental leave policies incorporate responses to multiple concerns, including economic support of families with very young children; protection of maternal and child health, pregnancy and childbirth; promotion of maternal employment; gender equality in the labour market and home; support for parental time with children (both fathers and mothers); involvement of parents in infants’ care; and efforts to ensure that babies start their growth...

  22. APPENDIX Demographic, gender and early childhood policy indicators for case study countries (2005, 2006)
    (pp. 273-274)
  23. Index
    (pp. 275-286)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)