The benefits of paternity leave

Worldwide fathers take a smaller part of parental leave than mothers when having children. There are several reasons for this.

To name a few:

  • In many countries, fathers have less paternity leave than mothers (1)
  • Economic reasons since paid parental leave for men is more limited than for women (2)
  • Professional traditions and workplace culture, all of which are historically conditioned that men do not take a large part of the leave when having a child (3)

Why is paternity leave so important?

But why do researchers, governments, and interest groups point out that fathers indeed should take a greater share of the leave? This is what we will take a closer look at in this blog post.

Increasing the uptake of leave by fathers is important because it is thought to:

1. Enhance gender equality at home

First and foremost, promoting parental leave and paternity leave by fathers, aim to facilitate a more gender-equal sharing of care and related housework, supporting the mother’s return to the labor market, and equalizing the circumstances in which women and men enter the labor market (4). Prolonged leave uptake by mothers (5, 6) weakens their link with the labor market, which in turn can have a negative effect on women’s career progression and earnings (7).

Parental leave taken by fathers also contributes to the ability of parents to reconcile family and work responsibilities. Research also shows that fathers who take paternity or parental leave are more likely to perform tasks such as feeding and bathing children (8).

2. May reduce the barriers to parenthood

Secondly, the involvement of fathers in childcare has also been linked to women’s decisions to have children (9).

3. Can have positive effects on a child’s development

Lastly, fathers who care for children early tend to stay more involved as children grow up. Where fathers participate more in childcare and family life, children enjoy higher cognitive and emotional outcomes and physical health (10).

Though there are no studies that explicitly conclude that there is a connection between paternity leave and how children do later in life, several studies do indicate that children who grow up with a present, engaged father do better in life (8, 11, 12). When children have close relationships with a male role model, they tend to avoid high-risk behaviors, they’re more likely to have high-paying jobs and healthy, stable relationships when they grow up.

New legislation may pave the way

Despite the positive effect of paternity and parental leave uptake by fathers, the current uptake of leave by fathers across Europe is low.

The EU Leave Directive imposed EU member states to implement national rules of minimum 2 months of earmarked non-transferable parental leave to each parent. The Directive must be implemented by August 2022.

Data from Denmark showed that in 2019, mothers took an average of 280 days of maternity leave and fathers took an average of 34 days (13). The expectation is that with the new rules there will be more fathers taking more paternity leave in the future.



  2. International Labor Organization. 2014. Maternity and Paternity at Work: Law and Practice Across the World. Geneva: International Labour Office at 51
  3. DOL POLICY BRIEF; Paternity Leave Why Parental Leave For Fathers Is So Important For Working Families;
  4. European Parliament. 2014. ‘A new strategy for gender equality post 2015.’ European Parliament. As of 12 October 2016:
  5. Ruhm, C.J. 1998. ‘The Economic Consequences of Parental Leave Mandates: Lessons from Europe.’ The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 113 (1): 285–317.
  6. Thévenon, O. & A. Solaz. 2013. ‘Labour Market Effects of Parental Leave Policies in OECD Countries.’ OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 141: 1–67.
  7. Orloff, A.S. 2009. ‘Gendering the comparative analysis of welfare states: An unfinished agenda.’ Sociological Theory 27 (3): 317–343.
  8. Allen, S. M. & Daly, K. J. (2007): The effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Summary of the evidence. Work (Vol. 7)
  9. Duvander, A.-Z. & G. Andersson. 'Gender Equality and Fertility in Sweden.' Marriage & Family Review 39 (1–2): 121–142.
  10. Huerta, M. et al. (2013) Fathers' Leave, Fathers' Involvement, and Child Development: Are They Related? Evidence from Four OECD Countries, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 140, OECD Publishing
  11. Opondo, C., Redshaw, M., Savange-McGlynn, E. og Quigley, M. A. (2016): Father involvement in early child-rearing and behavioural outcomes in their pre-adolescent children, BMJ Open, 6(11), 2016.
  12. Schober, P. S. (2016): Increasing Father Involvement in Child Care: What do we Know about the Effects on Child Development? DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, 2016.
  13. Danmark Statistik:
Tags: Well-Being