When fathers aren't fathers

The example of Pablo Iglesias -- who is staying at home until March to care for his children -- has reopened the debate on childcare and how to reconcile it with a career.

Ingrid Colanicchia
Ingrid Colanicchia MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
When fathers aren't fathers - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

If they had complied with current Spanish regulations, Pablo Iglesias and his partner Irene Montero (both MPs from Podemos) would have stayed home to take care of their children (born in July) for one and four months respectively. Instead the two decided to divide their parental leave equally, and in December Iglesias took over to allow Montero to return.

In an ideal world, this should not even be news. But there was much discussion about the Spanish MPs' choice, especially in Italy where fathers are only entitled to five days of absence from work, and where parental leave (to which both men and women are entitled) is requested by fathers in less than 20% of cases, despite legislation that provides an incentive for fathers to request it.

This state of affairs is at least partially explained by the low salaries during leave (30% of salary) and the long-standing issue of wage inequality between men and women.

If a mother earns 1,500 euros and a father earns 2,000 per month, it means the couple is left with an income of 2,450 euros if the mother stops working, compared to 2,100 euros if the father stops working.

Parental leave provisions vary enormously from one European country to another, which generates further disparities and affects the economic well-being of women. The EU should aim for a common policy modeled after the countries with the best-functioning policies.

Details from the story:

  • From December to March, Spanish MP Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, will stay home to care for his and his partner MP Irene Montero's twins, who were born in July.
  • The two MPs have decided to split their parental leave equally. Montero first stayed with the twins, and Iglesias took over to allow her to return to politics.
  • In Spain, maternity leave includes 16 fully-paid, uninterrupted weeks of absence, which the father can also take (except the first six after giving birth that are mandatory for the mother); paternity leave allows for five fully-paid, uninterrupted weeks of absence.
  • Podemos has reached an agreement with Pedro Sánchez's government to gradually even the leaves, bringing paternity to 16 weeks (non-transferable and paid 100%) in 2021, thus making it less likely that employers will see hiring a woman as a risk or a liability.
  • In Italy the existing provisions are:
    • Maternity leave beginning two months before the expected date of childbirth and ending three months after childbirth at 80% of salary;
    • Paternity leave is mandatory for five fully-paid days (plus one optional day to be deducted from maternal leave), and can be used by the father until the fifth month of life of the child;
    • Each parent is entitled to a continuous or interrupted period of absence for no more than ten months in total during the first year of the child's life; if the father takes at least three months of leave, the maximum is raised to eleven months. The compensation provided is equal to 30% of the salary (no compensation if the children are 8-12 years old).
  • In Italy, despite the incentive provided to encourage men to take paternity leave, less than 20% of applications come from men.
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