India Ranks Low in Global Analysis of Paternity Leave
Earlier this year, India passed a new Maternity Benefits Act, which extended the legally required amount of paid maternal leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Though it was a step in the right direction, the move was not without its flaws: it made woman of childbearing age less attractive to employers, and, crucially, India still has no equivalent legal provisions for paid paternity leave. But we’re not alone: New data analysis by UNICEF finds that almost two thirds of the world’s children below age one live in countries where fathers are not entitled to take paid paternity leave.
Most notably, the US, India, and China did not have any laws requiring paid leave for fathers. On UNICEF’s interactive map, countries are grouped depending on the length of paid parental leave stipulated by law. The US is one of only eight countries that do not have national laws enabling parental leave for either parent, and is a notable outlier even in that group, which largely consists of small Pacific Island states.
None of India’s South Asian neighbors have provisions for paid paternity leave, with the exception of Bhutan, which allows fathers up to three weeks of paid leave, and perhaps surprisingly, Afghanistan, which allows the same. European countries — with the exception of Switzerland and Albania — performed best, requiring at least 14 weeks of paid leave for new fathers, as did Australia, Russia, Japan, Korea, and Canada.
Plenty of research has shown that paternity leave benefits everyone, especially kids. But patriarchal attitudes prevail, and mothers are often required to provide primary child care by default. And in 2016, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said, “Paternity leave can be considered only if, once the woman goes back to work after her 26 weeks of leave, we find that men are availing their sick leave for a month to take care of the child. Let me see how many men do that. I will be happy to give it but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything.”
Of course, this seems a ridiculous way to make policy, but thankfully, change may occur sooner rather than later. India, which has one of the highest infant populations in the world, is now eyeing a paternity leave bill, which would allow new fathers up to three months of paid leave.