Most mothers take leave after childbirth, most fathers take ‘invisible leave’

Posted on August 10, 2012 in Child & Family Debates

Source: — Authors: – news/Canada/CanadianPolitics
30 July 2012.   Sarah Boesveld

Most Canadian mothers with young children took some form of maternity leave after childbirth, Statistics Canada reported Monday, while an expert says fathers are taking more of what she calls ‘‘invisible leave.’’

Ninety percent of mothers of children between the ages of one and three living outside Quebec took an average of 44 weeks off work post-childbirth or adoption, said the study, derived from the Survey of Young Canadians, taken in 2010 and 2011.

In Quebec, 99% of children had mothers who took leave. Those mothers, who benefit from the more generous Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, took an average of 48 weeks off.

Researchers who track parental leave trends have been more transfixed in recent years by the time fathers take off. Twenty-six percent of children living outside of Quebec had working fathers who also stayed home after they were born for an average 2.4 weeks.

But those figures don’t reveal the big picture, says Andrea Doucet, a Brock University professor who holds the Canada Research Chair in Gender, Work and Care.

“There’s a lot of invisible leave dads are taking,” she said in an interview Monday. “They’re taking holidays at that time or some of them are taking unpaid leave. There’s a lot of ways fathers are doing this without claiming it.”

It’s a lot harder to claim it or even ask for it in the provinces outside of Quebec, she said, where workplace family policies and expectations on men differ greatly. Fathers’ uptake of parental leave hovers around 12% across Canada, Quebec excepted.

But in Quebec, fathers took leave in the case of 76% of children, the Statistics Canada study shows, claiming about three weeks more than their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

Ms. Doucet attributes that to “daddy weeks” given to Quebec fathers since 2006. During “daddy weeks,” fathers are paid almost as much as they would be if they were still in the workplace.

“It’s not like Québécois fathers are better dads — they actually benefit from these policies,” she said.

Scandinavian countries have had this kind of policy for the past 20 years.

In 1980, only 5% of Swedish fathers took parental leave, Ms. Doucet pointed out in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. “[Ten] years later, it was just 7%. It was only when nontransferable and well-paid leave for fathers (also referred to as the “daddy month”) was introduced in 1996 that uptake quickly rose to 77%. A second “daddy month” was implemented in 2002 and the numbers have risen to above 90%.

“We don’t know what this all [ultimately] leads to, but what it certainly leads to is fathers being more invested in the family,” she said Monday. “Every father I’ve interviewed who’s taken leave just marvels at the time. It just allows them to be involved in the family and allows them to get out of the rut of working full time, which is something that men are just beginning to experience … [and] which is important since women’s employment rates are high and higher.”

The StatsCan study found socio-economic and child and maternal health characteristics were among the factors that would determine whether mothers and fathers took leave and how long that leave would be. Mothers and fathers who were self-employed took shorter leaves, even after considering factors such as whether the child was first-born, the sex of the child, the mother’s age, and parental education and income.

National Post with files from The Canadian Press

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