Why we support parental leave reform in Belgium

timesup_banner_enThe Friday Group, a young people’s think tank in Belgium supported by the King Baudouin Foundation, has worked out a parental leave reform so that fathers and co-parents working in Belgium can take three months of paid leave during the first year after the birth of a child. EUPanelWatch’s Marika Andersen has co-authored the report Time’s up: achieving gender-equal time management through parental leave reform

Why does EUPanelWatch support this? Because EUPanelWatch believes unequal use of time is a main reason why women are underrepresented in leadership positions and in public debate. At the same time, three out of four men would like to spend more time with their children, but public policy still doesn’t give young fathers enough opportunities to do so.

Time is the ultimate leveller: everyone has 24 hours in a day, yet men and women use this time very differently: women do an hour and a half more unpaid work a day than men, including caring for children. This means that after one year, women have worked more than three months more than men for free. This is in addition to the free work women already do thanks to the gender pay gap.

Research suggests paternity leave leads to fathers taking on a greater share of childcare from the start and that this increased responsibility for domestic tasks continues for the rest of their lives, meaning women are working more outside the home and earning money. The presented reform of parental and father leave gives families more opportunities by enabling women to invest more time in their careers and men more time with their families.

3 of the 10 recommendations of the report outline the concrete parental leave reform proposal

  1. Pay the first 10 days of the paternity or co-parental leave at 100% if the father or co-parent makes use of the entire 10 days (and not only the first three days at 100%, as is the case at present).
  2. Pay the first 10 days of the maternity leave at 100%, and not at 82%, as it is at present.
  3. Make it possible for fathers and co-parents to double their parental leave pay to 1,400 euros a month, for a leave duration of two and a half months, if they take it within the first year after the birth of a child. This gives Belgian fathers and co-parents the opportunity to take a total three months of paternity leave for the birth of the child, and the family retains 700 euros net extra.

The Friday Group has calculated that this reform would cost 49 million euros in social security and suggests financing this via a thorough screening of the gender-unfriendly fiscal marriage quotient which discourages work and costs the Belgian treasury more than 600 million euros every year.

For the other recommendations and the full report, visit The Friday Group website.