More than half of countries in the OECD, a group of mostly rich nations, offer fathers paid paternity leave. Paid parental leave, which can be shared between parents, is also increasingly available.
But not everyone is interested.
In France, 46% of fathers who did not take up their full paternity benefits—up to 28 weeks, if combined with shared paternity leave—said in a survey that they were simply “not interested.” French fathers account for only 4% of parents who claim parental leave, and that’s not even the lowest share in the OECD:
Fathers don’t take leave for many reasons. Some policies don’t pay much, and the family cannot afford the lost income. Not surprisingly, the countries that offer more generous support have higher take-up rates. Germany introduced well-paid bonus months for partners in 2007; between 2008 and 2013, the share of children whose fathers took leave increased by over 50%, the OECD says. In Sweden, men get paid about 60% of their earnings while on leave; fathers account for 45% of paid leave users in the country, one of the highest rates in the world.
Gender norms also discourage men from taking advantage of paid leave policies. Korea offers a whopping 53 weeks of paternity leave, but few use it. A survey by Korean trade unions revealed that half of men worried about prejudice if they take time off to care for children.
The US deserves special mention for its utter lack of a parental leave policy. Some companies in the US are trying to close the gap, such as Netflix and Facebook. But comprehensive government policies offering all new fathers leave by law will do more to close this enduring gender gap.