Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Paid paternal leave might fix gender wage inequity

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-07-22

Another cracking VoxEU post that advocates more paternal (not just parental) leave as a means of redressing gender-based wage inequality.  "Gender roles and technological progress" (by Albanesi and Olivetti) argues that while medical advances and legal reform should have fixed issues with workforce participation and career advancement back in 1970, it didn’t happen because of the perception that females do more of the household work, they’ll be less devoted to work, and are less attractive to employers, so wages and career prospects suffer.

(Not in my case as a single working parent!  However, a single parent who is male might attract more sympathy than a single mother, and I could take work home at night to make up for short hours in the day.)

If you are a regular visitor, you may recall my notes about another VoxEU paper "Gender-based taxation" that is still picking up hits from some time ago.  Anyway, back to the newer paper, which, by the way, has a different headline on the VoXEU home page: " Gender, medicine and papa leave"

One important lesson from this analysis is that gender equality in the labour market is intimately linked to equality in the household division of labour.  Policies aimed at reducing gender disparities in earning opportunities are likely to fail if they do not include provisions to reduce women’s contribution to home production relative to men.

Now, it men were paid paternal leave (ideally, if in a couple, able to stagger this time with a partner), there would be no direct monetary advantage to employing a young male in a serious relationship compared to a young female, and overall, the impression of managers would be that household duties were better shared, with males and females balanced in their committment to home and the workplace.

Many countries are discussing the introduction of more generous maternal leave policies to help women reconcile their maternal and professional roles and reduce their disadvantage with respect to men.  Our analysis suggests that such policies may well be counter productive.  Generous maternal leave policies reinforce the division of labour that underlies the mechanism by which women are offered lower wages.  This is likely to further depress women’s professional advancement . Sweden seems to have moved in the right direction with the introduction of a father’s month requirement that compels fathers to take at least 30 days of parental leave.  By directly reducing the gender asymmetries in the allocation of parental responsibilities, this policy decreases the potential for statistical discrimination that leads to gender inequalities in wages.

I could have used paternal leave!  Having a baby on your chest 24×7 and working full time is heavenly hell, even if you only do that for a couple of months.  My daughter with a new baby, but not working and with a partner is just beginning to give me due respect.  Another 15 years and she’ll really understand!

But, I’ve got to ask, will the policy of paid paternal leave mean that employers look with greater favor on those who are not heterosexual?  (Might they even favor the "butch" one?)

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One Response to “Paid paternal leave might fix gender wage inequity”

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