Men’s participation in unpaid care - A review of the literature
4. SUPPORTS FOR MEN'S GREATER PARTICIPATION IN CARE
The supports for encouraging men's greater participation in care are, for the most part, the policies and practices that would address the barriers identified in the previous section, as well as initiatives that provide incentives for men to increase their participation in care. As such, supports for encouraging men's participation in care range from addressing barriers through relatively simple strategies (such as placing infant change tables in men's restrooms) through to the more complex strategies such as examining the various components of family law for policies or practices that discriminate against fathers.
The literature reviewed focuses on supports for men's participation in care in two inter-related areas: initiatives related to working arrangements, and leave policies that provide time off to care for children. It is likely that these two issues are prominent in the literature because a number of countries have implemented them and because, especially with regard to leave policies, evaluations of their impact have been undertaken both within countries and cross-nationally by a variety of researchers. Apart from these two areas, there is little international literature suggesting other policy options to support men's participation in care. For example, the OECD's Babies and Bosses Series (2007a) examines policies including tax and benefit systems, parental leave to care for children, flexible work arrangements, and childcare and out-of-school care support; however, with the exception of the discussion around encouraging men to use leave arrangements, the majority of their findings related to these areas are focused on facilitating the participation of women in paid work, rather than support for men in unpaid care.
Both leave policies and flexible work arrangements are important in relation to supporting men to increase their participation in care, but given that relatively few men do take leave to become full-time caregivers, the interplay between working arrangements and unpaid care is particularly important.
As both working arrangements and leave policies impact on the balance between paid and unpaid work undertaken by men and women, it is difficult to isolate their specific effects. However, both kinds of support have failed, as yet, to significantly change the participation of men in unpaid care. For example, while leave policies have been shown to increase the time men take off from work to care for young children, neither these nor flexible work arrangements have been shown to significantly address the ongoing gendered division of unpaid care for children. Given the relatively short time in which these supports have been available, it is perhaps not surprising that a fundamental shift has not occurred. This section of the paper reviews the evidence on the short- and long-term impacts of initiatives in these two areas.
4.1 Working arrangements that support men's participation in care
Attempts to support men's greater participation in unpaid care have centred on family-friendly flexible arrangements that, together with attempts to encourage men (and women) to use them, have the potential to allow men to organise their work in such a way that they can be more involved with their children or others they are caring for. These initiatives include a wide range of arrangements such as flexible start and finish times, working from home, annualised hours and being able to take time off for emergencies and make the time up at a later date.
A number of studies have shown that the presence of flexible work arrangements and fathers' actual use of such arrangements are associated with less work-family conflict (for example, Allard, Haas and Hwang, 2007; Department of Labour, 2006). However, it is clear that men take up flexible work arrangements much less often than women, and when they do use such arrangements, they tend to be those that do not involve a reduction in working hours. This highlights the complexity of the relationship between culture and practice in this area.
Bittman et al (2004), in their comprehensive review of men's use of flexible work arrangements in Australia, found that, amongst parents with children under the age of 12, fathers were far less likely than mothers to use flexible work arrangements to care for children, with 27 per cent of fathers doing so, compared with 68 per cent of mothers. The vast majority of men who reported using such arrangements used flexible start and finish times, with few using other arrangements such as part-time work or job sharing.
Singley and Hynes, in their 2005 study, found that even among full-time employed couples where both partners had access to, and made use of, workplace flexibility, mothers typically went further in incorporating changes into their daily work arrangements, while fathers were more likely to use such flexibility on an as-needed basis. They argue that one determinant of the use of such arrangements is workplace culture, which works "alongside gender-neutral work-family policies to differentially shape men's and women's behaviour" (Ibid:272).
The most recent Department of Labour work-life balance survey (2008) found that men were less likely to use work arrangements such as part-time work and study leave, and amongst employees without access to particular arrangements, men were less likely than women to indicate that they'd like to use arrangements such as part-time work, job sharing, sabbaticals and unpaid leave.
Many countries, including New Zealand, have enacted right-to-request policies that support employees in the process of requesting alternative ways of structuring work, and place an obligation on employers to consider such requests. While the right-to-request legislation is ostensibly gender neutral, Kilkey (2006) argues, in her history of work-family policy in the UK, that the downgrading of the right-to-request legislation from a right to flexible work has significant implications particularly for men. She argues that:
...both mothers and fathers were losers in the weakening of the proposal (for flex) from an automatic non-negotiable right to one which hinges on consent from and negotiation with an employer. Given evidence, however, that fathers are less likely than mothers to perceive that there is scope for negotiating more flexible working arrangements with their employers, the dilution of the proposal may have been worse for fathers... [a] survey of flexible working requests in the first few months of... the legislation revealed that requests from mothers outweighed those from fathers by a factor of almost four. Mothers were also more likely to have their requests accepted (Ibid:171).
The different take-up rates of these arrangements by men and women may contribute to the ongoing gendered division of unpaid care and labour force participation. Gerson and Jacobs (2001:221) argue that family-friendly policies can "threaten to re-create earlier forms of gender inequality" because policies target women and then penalise those who use them (Haas and Hwang, 2007). Similarly, Gornick and Meyers (2008:328) in their assessment of the work-family arrangements in six European countries, argue that the gender differences in the use of flexible work arrangements:
...could have deleterious effects on women's advancement in the workplace if employers believe that it is costly to them when workers take up leave and other options and if they believe that women are much more likely than men to take up the available rights and services.
To the extent that these arrangements are gender neutral, men are also permitted to utilise them to assist with care responsibilities. However, as discussed above, labour market segregation (that, in turn, is perpetuated by women self-selecting into occupations where family-friendly working conditions are available) means that men are likely to be in better paying jobs characterised by work cultures that are unsympathetic to men's care responsibilities, meaning that men may feel less able to use such arrangements even when they are theoretically available. The OECD (2007a) argue that the lesser use of workplace provisions, in turn, reinforces this gender segregation, and stresses the need to encourage men to take more advantage of such provisions. They argue (Ibid:59) that:
...the key to a more gender equitable employment outcome requires men to act upon the notion that work and family reconciliation is also their concern. As long as mothers rather then fathers reduce labour force participation in the presence of children, and make use of parental leave provisions, employers... perceive women as less committed to their career than men, and are therefore less likely to invest in female career opportunities. However, if fathers also take leave, reduce working hours or start using flexitime arrangements when children are young, then in principle it becomes possible to ensure that both fathers and mothers have sufficient time to spend at work and with their children.
They also note the relationship between women's higher take-up of family-friendly provisions, perceptions of lesser commitment to work, and gender segregation in the workforce:
...To some extent this is a vicious circle: since female workers have limited incentives to pursue a career if they perceive the likelihood of advancement is more limited than for men, they are indeed more likely to withdraw from the labour force, only to return, if at all, in jobs that are often low in job-content compared with their potential. (Ibid:21)
Gornick and Meyers (2008:344) further argue that:
Some of the Nordic countries report relatively high levels of occupational segregation, which are usually attributed to employers' resistance to hiring or promoting women into more demanding positions. Although social insurance financing can lessen the costs of leave-taking for employers, they must still manage workers' absences. Increasingly, critics of European policy models argue that generous work-family policies, in the end, both lower the "glass ceiling" for women and make it more impenetrable.
As such, as long as there are significant gender differences in the use of such arrangements, flexible work can act to reinforce women's primary status as carers and secondary status in the labour market, by lowering their labour market experience and time devoted to paid work. As such, flexible work arrangements may undermine attempts to achieve a more equitable division of unpaid care. Stier and Lewin-Epstein (2007:239) examined the effect of work-family policies on households' division of unpaid work in 25 countries and argue that "reduced-hours employment, generous paid-leave schemes, and public childcare arrangements permit women greater flexibility in coordinating employment with household tasks and relieve men of the responsibility for care work". Similarly, Mandel and Semyonov (2005:965), in their review of earnings inequalities in 20 countries, argue that:
Because the gender division of labor within households continues to be highly unequal, policies that facilitate parental employment by reducing the conflicting demands of paid work and child care are directed in practice mainly at mothers. The implementation of such policies, in turn, lowers women's work effort and encourages employers' discrimination against women. Institutionalized options for parents to reduce working time or to take brief or prolonged absences from the labor market undoubtedly create a more flexible working environment for the individual parent. But insofar as it is mainly mothers who actually utilize these options, women are likely to suffer a collective economic penalty.
4.2 Leave policies to support men's participation in care
Why focus on leave?
Policy level initiatives to support the greater participation of men in unpaid care have focused on parental leave policies, in part, because the birth of a child is a critical juncture where gendered inequalities in the division of paid and unpaid work, including care, become of major importance (see discussion above).
O'Brien et al (2007) show that, historically, there has been substantial debate about the likely effectiveness of various public policy proposals aimed at increasing men's involvement in the care and wellbeing of children, with most countries selecting leave as the key intervention. Such policies were based on the premise that, if men spent more time at home when children were young, either through reductions in working hours or leave following the birth of a child, this would result in them being more involved in their care in the future. For example, Tanaka and Waldfogel (2007:412) suggested that:
...such policies will promote fathers' involvement with their children both by facilitating bonding and also by getting fathers involved early on, before mothers gain exclusive expertise about feeding, diaper changing and so on.
Similarly, Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel (2007:429) noted that the argument in support of paternity leave was that:
...at least some fathers might be willing to be more involved in childcare tasks than they are currently, but are discouraged from those tasks because mothers spend more time with the child after the birth, and hence, become the experts on the child's care.
While not examining leave, a 1998 longitudinal study in the US supports the idea that early involvement with children will affect men's later participation in their care. Aldous et al (1998) found that early participation in childcare led to fathers' continued involvement with their children when they were older, controlling for other factors. Fathers who were more active with their children at the time of the first wave of data collection also spent more time with their children 5 years later, when the second wave of data was collected. The authors thus argue that "once men are involved in looking after children, the pattern seems to continue over time" (Ibid:817). Similarly, the less frequently fathers cared for their infants or young children, the less they were involved with those children 5 years later. Unfortunately, the study does not control for other factors, such as fathers' views about parenting, which may determine the level of their involvement with children.
Moss and O'Brien (2006) suggest that attention to leave for fathers has increased as countries respond to the growth of dual earner families, increasing awareness of work-life issues and growing expectations that men will be more actively involved with their children's care. However, while there has been research on parental leave that explored the views of both mothers and fathers, there is little research on the provision and use of other domestic leave arrangements by gender, with research in this area having the potential to provide information on further strategies to support men's caring.
International leave policies and men's take-up
In their review of international research on fathering, Seward and Richter (2008:88) note that:
...employment leave of some type for fathers... has become one of the most popular means by which governments and employers worldwide try and enhance fathers' involvement with their young children...
This section of the review considers recent changes to the policy settings of a selected group of countries. A number of other countries have recently made or proposed changes to their leave policies in order to support men's greater participation in the care of their children. Moss (2008) notes that a number of countries have introduced incentives for fathers to take more leave, with these including additional bonus periods if fathers take a certain amount of basic leave (with this being the case in Estonia, Finland, Germany and Italy) or extra payments (including Sweden and Portugal).
However, within the countries where these changes have been made, the results have been less than ideal. Seward and Richter (2008:89) argue that:
Providing leaves for fathers has had mixed results, most of which are not very impressive. When both parents are eligible for leaves, mothers still take most of what is available. Initially, few fathers, if any, take leave and participation rates have increased very slowly. Scandinavian countries report the most success at getting fathers to take leave, but only after portions of parental leaves were made mandatory for fathers.
Similarly, in the introduction to an international review on leave policies, Moss (2008) reports that, when leave is a joint entitlement to be shared between partners, fathers' use is low across all countries. For example, he reports that men make up less than 1 per cent of leave recipients in the Czech Republic, 2 per cent in Poland, 3 per cent in Austria and 5 per cent in Germany. In line with these figures, only 1 per cent of men surveyed for the New Zealand evaluation of paid parental leave reported using any of the shared entitlement (Department of Labour, 2007).
However, in countries where leave is both an individual entitlement for men, and is relatively well paid, men's use is much higher. This is evident in the Nordic countries.
The Nordic countries stand out for their generosity in the area of paid leave for men. Sweden is the most generous, offering 480 days of paid parental leave, of which 60 are ring-fenced for men. In addition, fathers can take 10 days paid paternity leave. The first 13 months of parental leave is paid at 80 per cent of usual earnings up to a threshold, with the next 3 months paid at a low flat rate and the remainder unpaid. In addition to ring-fencing leave for men, in 2008, Sweden has introduced a gender equality bonus, which provides the parent with the lower wage an additional tax reduction when the parent with the higher wage stays at home. As such, the bonus provides a financial incentive to couples to share parental leave more equally.
Almost all (90 per cent) of fathers of children born in 1998 took some parental leave, with the majority of fathers taking this leave when their children were 13-15 months old (Haas, 2008). By the end of 2005, fathers were taking just under 20 per cent of all leave days. Fathers also took a third of all leave to care for sick children.
Norway offers a total of 54 weeks paid parental leave, of which 6 (since 2006) are reserved for the father. Men can also take 2 weeks unpaid leave around the birth of the child (the 'daddy days'.) Brandth and Kvande (2008) note that there are currently proposals under discussion to increase the amount of leave taken by fathers, with proposals suggesting a tripartite split of leave or the division of leave such that men and women would each be entitled to one-quarter of the leave, with the remaining half available to be shared. While the debate is still underway, Brandth and Kvande suggest that it is likely change will be made in the near future.
In the years before the introduction of an individual entitlement to parental leave for men, less than 4 per cent of fathers took some parental leave. However, in 2003, 89 per cent of fathers took leave. Most men take only the father's entitlements, with more than 70 per cent taking 5 or more weeks. Only 15 per cent of fathers take up any portion of the shared leave (Brandth and Kvande, 2008).
Significant changes were made to entitlements for parental leave in Iceland in 2000, with these coming into full effect in 2003. Since then, parents are entitled to 3 months paid leave each, and 3 months to share, with these 9 months paid at 80 per cent of salary. As such, Iceland offers the longest individual paid entitlement to fathers.
Einarsdottir and Petursdottir (2008) report that, in 2005, 89 fathers took a period of leave for every 100 mothers taking leave, with fathers taking about a third of all days of leave taken by parents (an average of 95 days leave compared with 179 for mothers). About one in five fathers (19.2 per cent) used some of the parents' shared entitlement.
Fathers in Finland are entitled to 18 days paternity leave, with a further 12 day 'bonus' for fathers who use the last 2 weeks of the portion of parental leave that is available for either parent. This time is paid at 70 per cent of annual earnings, up to a threshold, with a lower percentage payment for fathers who earn over the threshold. Fathers can also take a share of 158 days of parental leave, of which the first 30 days are paid at 75 per cent of earnings, again up to a threshold with a lower percentage for higher earners. Salmi, Lammi-Taskula and Takala (2008) note that a new system is being discussed that would offer 18 months of leave in a tripartite division; that is 6 months ring-fenced for each parent and 6 months to be shared.
In 2006, 70 per cent of fathers took paternity leave. The average length of the leave taken was 14 working days. However, only 9 per cent of fathers (n=5,059 fathers) took the new bonus leave period (i.e. they had also taken the last 2 weeks of the preceding parental leave).
In 2005, Slovenia's new parental system was fully implemented. Since then, fathers are entitled to 90 days of paternity leave, 3 weeks of which are paid at full earnings up to a ceiling. The remaining days are paid at a low flat rate. In addition, fathers can share 37 weeks of parental leave, which are paid at full earnings up to a ceiling.
In 2003, the year paternity leave was introduced, 63 per cent of fathers took up to 15 days of paternity leave, with this increasing to 72 per cent in 2004. Research suggests that most fathers (91 per cent in 2004) do not take more than 15 days of paternity leave because their earnings are not fully compensated during the remaining entitlement. Only 2 per cent of fathers took parental leave in 2003, despite it being paid at 100 per cent of earnings up to a ceiling.
Canada - Quebec
Fathers in most of Canada are not entitled to any paternity leave, but can take a share of 37 weeks of parental leave, which is paid at 55 per cent of earnings up to a ceiling. However, in 2006, Quebec launched a separate parental leave benefit system. Under this programme, fathers are entitled to up to 5 weeks at 70 per cent of earnings, or 3 weeks at 75 per cent of earnings. They can then share either 55 weeks of parental leave paid at 70 per cent of income up to a ceiling for 25 weeks and 55 per cent for the remaining 30 weeks, or take a total of 40 weeks paid at 75 per cent of income.
On average, in 2005, 14.5 per cent of eligible Canadian fathers took up some parental leave, with this national figure rising to 20 per cent in 2006, mainly due to the impact of changes in Quebec. In 2005, 22 per cent of new fathers in Quebec took parental leave, with this rising dramatically to 48.4 per cent in 2006 when the new system was implemented.
In 2007, Spain implemented 15 days of paternity leave, paid at 100 per cent of earnings up to a ceiling. Fathers also have an individual entitlement of up to 3 years unpaid parental leave.
In 2005, fathers made up 4.5 per cent of the parents taking up parental leave. Early estimates of the impact of the new paternity leave system are that 45 per cent of fathers of newborns took up the leave in 2007 (Escobedo, 2008).
Fathers are entitled to 5 days of paid paternity leave at 100 per cent of earnings, followed by 3 months of unpaid leave; however, fathers can also take 15 'daddy days' paid at 100 per cent of their earnings, with no ceiling on payment, if they take them immediately after the fifth day of paternity leave or immediately after maternity leave.
Portugal is unique in that, in 2004, it introduced an obligatory 5 day paternity leave. However, the proportion of fathers who take this leave, while slowly rising, is far from 100 per cent. Wall and Leitao (2008) report that 37 per cent of fathers took paternity leave in 2004, rising to 39 per cent and 41 per cent in 2005 and 2006 respectively. A similar slow increase is evident in the use of the additional 15 days of paid leave for fathers, with 28 per cent of fathers taking this leave in 2004, rising to 33 per cent in 2006. There is no information available on men's take-up of shared parental leave, but as leave is unpaid, usage is estimated to be very low.
As the above figures indicate, evaluations of parental leave policies on men's participation in unpaid care work are not overwhelmingly promising, showing that, even while men take up leave that is ring-fenced solely for their use at high rates, women still use the vast majority of leave. Bruning and Plantenga (1999:208) note that, across countries:
In spite of all the differences and in spite of all the dynamics, there remains one constant element: parental leave refers primarily to leave taken by mothers; the role of fathers is disappointing.
Moss (2008) points out that leave policies are used differentially not only between men and women. Leave usage also differs between parents with varying levels of education and income, and different kinds of employment, both individually, and in relation to their partners. As such, he highlights that the impact of leave policies is far from uniform.
Because of the differences in length of leave taken by men and women, a number of researchers have highlighted the unintended negative impacts on women's labour force participation. For example, in their comparison of Nordic countries' leave policies with those of 16 other Western countries, Gupta et al (2008:79) argue that:
Certain negative boomerang effects from parental leave schemes arise, however, due to mothers taking on average much longer periods of leave than fathers... Particularly, the gender pay gap appears to have widened most at the top of the wage distribution as a result of these policies, which we term a 'welfare state-based glass ceiling'.
As noted above, in New Zealand, if both are eligible, parents are theoretically able to share equally the (relatively short) period of leave available.
In the 2007 evaluation of parental leave in New Zealand, 82 per cent of fathers took some kind of leave around the time of the birth of their child. However, almost no fathers took paid parental leave, with only 1 per cent of the fathers interviewed taking any of the shared entitlement. Mothers who could have transferred some leave were asked if they considered doing so, and 72 per cent said they did not consider such a transfer. The main reasons given for this were: that it is more important for the mother to be bonding (67 per cent); more important for the mother to be breastfeeding (60 per cent); more important for the mother to have a period of recovery from birth (51 per cent); and just under half (44 per cent) stated that the money available to their partner would not be enough. Those who were willing to transfer were more likely to be the main income earner, to work full-time and to have been given some kind of benefit from their employer such as space for breastfeeding or childcare facilities.
Equally, fathers were asked what would prevent them taking up paid parental leave. The two strongest reasons were related to biological factors - breastfeeding (79 per cent stated that this would influence them to a large extent) and mother's recovery from birth (75 per cent). The need to maintain their income was also important for many, but not all, fathers.
If there are short periods of leave, and breastfeeding is a norm in the society, then there are real barriers to men taking leave (Galtry and Callister, 2005). This suggests that a potential support to encourage men to be more involved with their newborn children would be to enable them to take leave concurrently with the leave taken by the mother.
Men's leave taking and their involvement with their children
Many countries have focused their attempts to increase men's participation in unpaid care by providing leave policies, on the grounds that this will encourage men's ongoing participation in care beyond the leave period. Tanaka and Waldfogel (2007:412) note, however, that there is limited literature on the links between fathers' leave-taking and their involvement with their child.
Our review of the literature found a limited body of evidence for the positive impact of leave on future engagement of fathers with their children. Haas and Hwang (2005) found that the amount of leave taken by fathers had a modest positive impact on the number of hours fathers with children under the age of 12 spent in childcare and the frequency with which they engaged in physical care tasks such as preparing food and taking the child to the doctor. Those fathers who had taken more than 90 days of leave were significantly more likely to undertake these tasks and, in addition, were more likely to comfort, talk with and put a child to bed.
In their later study of 365 fathers in Sweden, Haas and Hwang (2008) reported that fathers who had taken more days of parental leave were significantly more likely to report they sometimes had solo responsibility for children, spent more time doing things for or with children on workdays and were more engaged in childcare tasks including physical caregiving, as well as in activities that constituted emotional caregiving. However, it was the amount of leave taken, rather than the fact of taking any leave, that was important. Fathers who took more days of leave reported significantly more satisfaction with contact with their children. They concluded that their study suggested:
...that fathers simply taking leave, for any period of time, will have little impact on men's participation in childcare and relationships with children after the leave is over. Encouraging fathers to take longer leaves holds more promise in terms of bringing about more sharing of childcare in the home (Ibid:14).
Using a large sample of 9,592 children in the US, Tanaka and Waldfogel (2007) found that taking parental leave was related to fathers being more involved with the care of the child 8-12 months later. They examined the use of leave and fathers' involvement in four specific activities and found that fathers who took any leave after the birth were 25 per cent more likely to change nappies and 19 per cent more likely to feed and to get up at night, when the child was aged 8-12 months.
While these studies have shown a strong correlation between length of leave and subsequent involvement in care, they have not been able to determine the causal direction of this relationship. It is possible that men who want to be more involved fathers both take more leave and are more involved with the care of their children as their children grow up.
For example, Nepomnyaschy and Waldfogel (2007) surveyed a large (n=4,638) sample of US fathers and examined the length of leave taken at the child's birth and their involvement with the child when the child was 9 months old. They found that fathers who took longer leave were more involved in child care-taking activities 9 months after the birth, even after controlling for a range of father, mother and child characteristics. However, they note that:
...establishing a causal link between leave-taking and subsequent care-taking is challenging. While it may be the case that giving fathers the opportunity to take more leave leads them to be more involved later, it is also possible that both leave-taking and care-taking are driven by some other factor. Fathers who take leave may simply be more committed fathers, and this may be reflected both in their leave-taking and subsequent care-taking. In a similar vein, men who take leave may be less committed employees, and this may be reflected in both their taking leave and in being more involved in child care-taking subsequently... men who take leave, or take longer leave, may be a selected group who are less concerned about work and more willing to invest in family time, or more able to afford unpaid leave (Ibid:429).
A number of studies reviewed failed to find a link between parental leave and subsequent involvement with children. Seward, Yeatts, Zottarelli and Fletcher's (2006) qualitative study failed to find a link between leave-taking and fathers' spending time with children or taking responsibility for childcare, and noted that "...factor analyses and regression analyses on the same variables failed to find further support for the assertion that taking leave enhances fathers' involvement with their children". Similarly, Ekberg et al (2005:1), in their evaluation of the first Swedish 'daddy month,' reported that:
We find strong short term effects of incentives on male parental leave. However, we find no learning-by-doing, or specialization, effects: fathers in the treatment group do not have larger shares in the leave taken for care of sick children, which is our measure for household work.
In addition, a number of studies in Sweden show that neither workforce nor leave policies provided the magic bullet that allowed men and women to achieve the ideal balance between care and work. Van der Lippe, Jager and Kops (2006), in their cross-national comparison of work-family balance in European countries, found that, compared to seven other countries in the EU, men and women in Sweden experienced the least work-family balance, and as such, they concluded that family-friendly policies did not guarantee a better combination of work and care.
The case of Iceland also highlights that, even when there is a significant individual entitlement to parental leave for men, the details of policy design remain a crucial factor in determining the degree to which they can influence men's involvement with the care of their children. Einarsdottir and Petursdottir (2008), in their evaluation of Iceland's tripartite scheme, argue that the design of the policy, which allows leave to be taken in several short periods and by both parents concurrently, has encouraged:
...fathers to 'pop' in and out of employment, and not to assume primary responsibility for the care of their young child over a sustained period. Many fathers see leave as an opportunity to experience the child in different stages of development. They adopt the role of a secondary caregiver and plan their leave around their paid employment; this also leads to the leave being taken when it suits the timetable of the workplace (Moss, 2008:6).
Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of fathers in their research divided their leave, while in 76 per cent of families, the mother and father were on leave together. Einarsdottir and Petursdottir (2008) thus conclude:
...women seem to be the ones shouldering the main responsibility for caring, as the take-up patterns seem to reveal, so they want longer leave. As the leave is designed now it does not encourage men to spend time alone with the child, so it does not guarantee the child time alone with the father (Ibid:88).
As such, across the literature, ring-fenced parental leave for men is judged as a necessary but far from sufficient condition to promote gender equality and shared responsibility for care.
Impacts of leave on the overall division of care at the national level
The literature cited above explored the relationship between men's leave-taking and their subsequent involvement with their children, with a number of these studies concluding that men who take parental leave are more likely than men who do not take leave to engage in care for children after the leave period. However, a number of researchers have also examined the impact of leave policies on the overall gendered division of care at the national level.
Duvander et al (2005), in their analysis of the Swedish parental leave system, noted that, while Sweden has one of the most generous leave schemes, the scheme still has not had a significant impact in increasing the participation of men in unpaid care. They noted:
The flexibility of the Swedish system, with transferable leave rights, has the consequence that the lion's share of parental leave days is still taken by mothers, which, among other things, makes it difficult for women to compete on equal terms with men in the labour market. Consequently, the gender-based division of parental leave may contribute to a preservation of traditional gender roles and inequalities. As the Swedish labour market is highly gender segregated, the cost of parenthood is not only unfairly divided between parents but also unfairly divided between the employers of men and women (Ibid:21).
Similarly, Gupta et al (2008:75) argued that, in Sweden:
...while the introduction and extension of the father quota had a significant effect on fathers' use of paternal leave, the long-term effects on behaviour within the household, however, were minor.
Gislason, in his review of the impacts of Iceland's tripartite division of parental leave, notes that regardless of the length of leave, mothers will use the majority of leave available to be shared, arguing that "the joint time becomes the mother's time, and it does not appear to matter how long this time is..." (Gislason, 2007:16). Similarly, Kilkey (2006:168) argues that:
The experience of parental leave in some Nordic countries and Iceland... has been that only explicitly gendered policies, in the form of non-transferable (use it or lose it) father quotas... have the capacity (albeit limited) to engage fathers.
This suggests that, while having many other benefits, parental leave policies that are able to be allocated between partners at their discretion, are compensated at a low rate and are relatively long in duration are a questionable tool for advancing greater participation of men in care activities. Such policies, while delivering a range of positive impacts, may undermine gender equality by reinforcing women's lesser participation in the labour force and cementing gendered and traditional inequalities in the patterns of paid and unpaid work.
However, the relationship between longer periods of leave for fathers and their later involvement with children implies that encouraging fathers to take a more equal period of leave holds promise as a strategy for increasing men's participation in unpaid care. In Iceland, for example, Gislason (2007) reported evidence of different kinds of long-term impacts of men's use of parental leave. He argued that, over time, more fathers are taking leave, the average number of days fathers take is increasing, fewer fathers are taking less than the minimum right and more fathers are sharing the joint entitlement. He also argues that there are some indications that the changes to parental leave policy have had a levelling effect on the status of men and women in the labour market, although cautions that "...these clues are, however, neither clear not decisive" (Ibid:30). The report also suggests that there is evidence of a positive impact of the leave scheme on fertility.
Haas and Hwang (2008:100) also note that "encouraging fathers to take longer leaves holds the most promise in terms of bringing about more sharing of childcare in the home." They argue that:
The amount of parental leave days taken had positive effects on several aspects of fathers' participation in childcare and on their satisfaction with contact with children... however, the full potential of Sweden's parental leave policy for degendering the division of labour for childcare will not likely be met until fathers are strongly encouraged by social policy to take a more equal portion of parental leave...
Cross-national comparisons of leave settings and men's participation in care
Cross-national examinations of the leave policies of European countries have showed a positive correlation between the "father-friendliness" of leave provisions and the amount of time fathers spend caring for their children.
Smith and Williams (2007) explored the correlation between time spent caring by fathers and paternal leave legislation in 14 Western European countries, using an index they created to measure the father-friendliness of leave policy settings. The index included: whether leave was a family or individual right; whether there was a specific ring-fenced provision for men; whether the leave was paid and, if so, at what level; whether part-time leave was allowed; what the eligibility criteria for taking leave were; whether emergency leave to care for dependents was available and, if so, whether it was paid; and whether there was government encouragement for men to take leave through awareness programmes. They found that there was a significant positive association between the father-friendliness of national legislation and paternal time spent in unpaid care. However, their results were sensitive to the inclusion of Denmark and Finland in the analysis, a finding that indicates that these two countries contributed greatly to the overall positive correlation.
Hook (2006) used time use data from 20 countries to examine the relationship between national context and men's unpaid work. She found that, in countries where men were eligible to take parental leave, men living with children did 19 minutes more of unpaid work per day, or 2.2 hours more per week, than did men living with children in countries not offering parental leave for men or men not living with children.
Gornick and Meyer (2008:339) note, however, that "correlations between policies and outcomes cannot establish causation, which might run in the opposite direction".
4.3 Other policies to increase men's participation in care
Women's increased labour force participation
Greater participation by women in paid work potentially allows men to increase their participation in unpaid care work. Baxter (2007) notes that many women are able reduce their hours of employment to accommodate care needs because of the longer hours worked by their spouses, implying that the reverse of this arrangement may also be true.
A number of recent analyses have argued that supporting women's labour force participation may influence men's participation in unpaid work, with researchers reporting not only modest cross-national variation in the participation of men in unpaid care according to the proportion of women in the labour force, but also interaction effects between individual variables and contextual measures attributable to the policy environment. In her study of 20 countries, Hook (2006) found that women's greater aggregate employment rate predicted men's greater time spent in domestic tasks, regardless of an individual couple's employment status. In line with this, Cooke (2007a) argues that policies to support women's labour force participation not only alter women's level of individual resources, but also women's aggregate level of these resources, with this, in turn, altering the effect of individual resources on couple negotiations about the division of paid and unpaid work.
Breen and Cooke (2005), using data from 22 countries, contend that the larger the proportion of economically autonomous women in a society, the more likely men as a group will share domestic unpaid work. Cooke (2007a) argues that this is because, where policies enhance women's economic autonomy, the proportion of women desiring a gendered division of labour declines, to the point that men believe any female partner will expect a more egalitarian division of domestic tasks. However, the proportion of economically autonomous women must be sufficiently high to not only change men's beliefs about what a partner would expect in the domestic sphere, but also their willingness to act on those beliefs (Ibid).
Reductions in working hours
A number of researchers conclude that a reduction in working hours would assist men to take on greater levels of care, with a number arguing that regulatory support for this reduction is necessary. Himmelweit and Land (2007) argue that a necessary condition for men to share care is for workers to be able to work hours that are compatible with sharing caring responsibilities, which, in turn, requires a reduction in working hours. Similarly, Hook (2006:643) argues that:
Regulations that decrease standard work time, such as legislation and collective agreements stipulating regular and maximum working hours, hours of operation, overtime compensation, and vacation time, increase the breadwinner's time available for unpaid work.
Research on the impact of working time regulations in France following the introduction of the 35-hour working week has supported this argument. Fagnani (2007) found that almost all the men who stated a positive impact of the 35-hour week on their family lives emphasised the fact that they spent more time with their children, even when they lived separately from the mother. Similarly, Fagnani and Letablier (2004) found that the new working time arrangements encouraged a new pattern of sharing paid and unpaid work between the parents of young children, as fathers were spending more time with their children.
4.4 The role of the state in supporting men as carers
Sjoberg's (2004:119) analysis of 13 industrialised nations illustrates how government policies affect the "ways in which individuals can pursue their private lives and how they look upon the 'proper role' of both women and men in society". In line with this, evaluations of leave entitlements aimed at supporting the greater participation of men in care work have highlighted the role of government policy in changing attitudes about the role of men as carers. Regarding the use of parental leave, Moss (2008:111) argues that:
It is...striking that fathers' use of leave does respond to policy changes. The average number of days leave taken by men in Iceland has more than doubled between 2001 and 2003, in line with the extension of father-only leave over this period. The proportion of Norwegian men taking some leave has increased from 4 per cent to 89 per cent since the introduction of the 1 month father's quota. Similarly, the proportion of leave days taken by men in Sweden doubled from 1997 to 2004, with the introduction and then the extension of a father's quota, though the doubling to 2 months had a less dramatic effect than the initial introduction of a quota. Another striking example of the effect of policy change has been the number of fathers in Portugal taking the recently introduced paid parental leave, while the proportion of fathers taking parental leave in Canada has more than trebled since the extension of leave from 10 to 35 weeks.
While the impacts of the increased take-up of such leave have not thus far been overwhelming, it is clear that the implementation of such policy by the state has played a role in establishing a norm validating men's participation in care, and legitimating men's use of leave from work to undertake care activities. As such, the implementation of such policies also plays a role within workplaces by both establishing a norm for men's use of leave and reducing the penalties associated with doing so. Brandth and Kvande (2001:264) argue that:
Because the state intervenes and establishes a norm for how the paternity quota is to be organised, it also provides the necessary legitimacy for taking leave from work. The time-account scheme, on the other hand, being an optional, non-standard solution, leaves much to negotiations between the father and the job. The optional character of this scheme has not created a majority practice among fathers and established itself as a norm in the same way as the paternity quota. As long as it is based on individual choice, it is difficult for the individual employee to set the limits for work and to mark the borders between work and home/leave... if leave is collectively granted and collectively taken, the risks associated with taking it, are perceived to disappear and fathers are able to act on their wish to be more involved with their children... As long as taking up family friendly policies is an individual option, the employee risks becoming a 'time deviant'...
Similarly, Haas and Hwang (2007:75) note that "...government policies can drive change within companies. They... do this by affecting men's "sense of entitlement" to supportive work policies and practices".
In addition, policies that support men's participation in care provide men with negotiating power in their individual workplace settings. Brandth and Kvande (2001) argue that "...the state acts as a normative third party for parents in their negotiations with the company" (Ibid:263) and that "...both men and women need the legitimisation that state legislation collectively gives in order to be able to reduce their working hours" (Ibid:264).
As such, Haas and Hwang (2008:100) contend that: "Social policy that offers fathers the chance to take paid leave to be home with children removes one structural/institutional constraint to their becoming engaged and equal parents..." However, policy and regulations can also have a more indirect effect on the workplace by changing what is normative. Haas (2003:91) argues that:
...as organisations become more aware of parents' needs, learn how to adapt to mandated leave, and discover the benefits leave taking can have for employees' personal development, the family responsibilities of all workers may receive more attention and organisations may choose to supplement the benefits offered by national legislation.
The work of Cabrera et al (2000) highlights that the impact of state supports for men's participation in care needs to be considered as returning longer-term benefits. They contend that a more equal distribution of paid and unpaid work will, in turn, support the increased participation of men in care in the next generation. Their research found that men whose fathers were involved in raising them were, in turn, more involved with their own children, took more responsibility for them, showed more warmth and more closely monitored their behaviours and activities. They concluded that:
The next generation of boys and girls will be more likely to experience mothers who work full-time outside the home and fathers who cook dinner. Consequently, children are being reared with different expectations about their future roles and those of their future partners (Ibid:133).
A further issue for government relates to how issues of gender equity have been considered. Significant resources have been invested in examining and addressing gender equity for women, particularly with regard to their participation in paid work. The Ministry of Women's Affairs provides institutional support for gender issues specific to women, while the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women provides support for women's participation in paid work.
The focus on equity for women has been necessary and undeniably valuable; however, it seems appropriate to highlight that there is currently no specific institutional support for gender issues for men, such as increasing men's participation in care. The lack of such support in itself sends a message about the importance of men's caring, a message that is reinforced in many settings. For example, the recently released Global Gender Gap Report 2007, which measures the gap between men and women in key economic, political and social areas, uses ratio measures that stop at "1": that is, they do not measure gender inequality when men under-perform women.
In their preface to the proceedings of an international conference on men and gender equality, the Finnish Minister for Social Affairs and Health and the European Union's Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (Haatainen and Spidla, 2006:9) note:
Historically, gender equality policy has been considered an issue of women and for women. This is for obvious reasons as women were and still are the under-represented sex. Women's organisations have worked throughout the years bringing gender equality at the top of the political agenda, making changes possible. For the empowerment of women and the realisation of gender equality we should not limit our focus to women and their position and situation in life and in society. We must also pay more attention to how gender equality policy and the promotion of gender equality are related to men. Taking men and boys into account is not contradictory to the empowerment of women. Quite the contrary, it creates gender equality policy that benefits both women and men and the society as a whole.
Alternative models for addressing issues of gender equity are evident in Finland and Austria. The Council for Gender Equality (or TANE) is one of Finland's three equality authorities. Established in 1972, it is a permanent parliamentary body working under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and fulfilling an advisory role in state administration. Its task is to promote gender equality in society. TANE is a forum where politicians, authorities, researchers and NGOs collaborate to develop Finnish gender equality policy (Anttila, 2006).
A second alternative model is evident in the Austrian Unit for Men's Policy, which was established in March 2001 in the Federal Ministry of Social Security and Generations. The Department's task is to lay the foundations for a nationwide men's policy, with areas within scope including reconciliation of family life and work, men's health, relationship and family issues (including problems related to divorce), as well as gender-sensitive education of boys (Berchtold, 2006). The unit released their first National Report on Men's Policy in 2006, with this covering a broad range of issues including the consequences of divorce for men, and fatherhood as an identity. However, it is unclear whether the unit has been subject to any evaluations.
4.5 Education, income and decision-making in child-rearing couples: looking forward
Historically, it has been often been argued that men have had a comparative advantage in paid work. While some writers have brought biology into these arguments, an important determinant of this advantage has been that men have, in the past, had greater access to education, particularly tertiary education (for example, Becker, 1996). However, since the time that Becker was writing, there has been a major change in educational outcomes in almost all industrialised countries, including New Zealand (Callister, Newell, Perry and Scott, 2006). Across almost all broad levels of tertiary education, young women are better educated than young men, For example, in New Zealand, the 2006 Census shows that, in the 25-29 age group - a key couple-forming age group where decisions are often being made about parenthood - there are considerably more well educated women than men. For bachelor degrees in this age group, there were 28,110 women as against 18,780 men; for masters, 3,156 women as against 2,952 men. Only in the area of no formal qualifications do men outnumber women (17,553 as against 13,698 women). These changes may have an influence on sharing of paid and unpaid work in households in the future. They may also influence family form, and more women in the future may have children on their own.
Education is one factor, but so too are the earnings from such education. As noted, a key factor seen as determining who might be a primary breadwinner and who might be a main caregiver is relative wage rates, that is, the pay gap between women and men. However, this gap has been changing over time, and the size of the gap changes quite significantly over a life-cycle. A number of studies indicate that, while many factors influence inequalities in wages, one important determinant of the pay gap is gendered roles adopted after having a child (for example, Budig and England, 2002).
How the changes in education and income earning potential will affect decisions about caregiving will be seen over the next couple of decades, but the changes should theoretically make it easier for women to be primary income earners in couples and thus make it easier to support their male partner in an expanded caregiving role.
 It is unclear whether this initiative has become law, or whether it is still in process.
 It is not clear in the literature how the leave can be obligatory but subject to low take-up.