The Belgian pressure group Femmes Prévoyantes Socialistes (FPS) has launched a campaign to encourage fathers to take more parental leave. Belgium has relatively generous allocations of paternal and parental leave, but fathers are still not using as much of their entitlements as they could.
The gender gap in parental leave
In Belgium, fathers have a right to 10 days paternal leave. They also have a right to three months off as parental leave, or six months at 50% part-time, or even 15 months working at 80%. In addition, fathers have the right to use the “credit-temps” to work at 50% or 80% part-time for a year or more.
The number of parents taking advantage of parental leave has increased from around 1000 in 2002 to more than 8000 in 2008. However, fathers still do not take as much parental leave or credit temps as women.
One of the barriers to this happening, according to FPS, is the stereotyping of roles for men and women. Another factor, for most couples, is the tendency for the lower earner to take the most parental leave – in the majority of cases this is the mother, due to the gender gap in pay levels. Both factors are to some extent self-enforcing: if women are more associated with family care work, while men engage more with paid work, this reinforces both stereotype and gender pay gap.
A campaign to change attitudes and policy
FPS’s aim with this campaign is to make fathers aware of the importance of taking their parental leave entitlement. The campaign points out the importance of being present with one’s family in order to build good relationships with one’s children, and indeed recognises that for many men this is increasingly a priority. More information and flexibility in working time will hopefully promote equality between men and women both in the family and on the labour market and a better work-life balance.
By challenging stereotypes, FPS hopes to encourage a change in masculine identity and in the current allocation of family and child-raising tasks.
The campaign uses awareness-raising, distribution and other activities – such as posters, leaflets, an information brochure, and online videos – on different types of parental leave.
FPS has also produced simulations of family income under different circumstances to show families that it is affordable for fathers to take more parental leave.
Finally, the campaign also includes a competition – with a prize of one week’s holiday for a family of four in the south of France - for the best photograph and caption on why fathers chose to take their parental leave.
The success of the campaign also depends on policy decisions, however, and FPS is campaigning for a doubling of paternal leave, as well as an improvement in the compensation for lost salary.
The campaign, called “Papas, osez l’aventure!” (or “Go for it, dads!”), was launched in June 2010, so it is still too early to judge tangible results. FPS hopes that it will be a first step towards increasing paternal leave allocations and encouraging an equal partition of parental leave between