Soon it becomes easier to be a father in
As the first country in the world,
Daddy with a feeding bottle
The new law soon turned out to be an unqualified success. Already in the first year 82% of fathers took leave for the full 3 months reserved for them, and by last year the figure hit the 90 % mark. This has clearly had a positive influence on family dynamics. Fathers who took parental leave become much better integrated in their family, and take greater responsibility later on, for instance when their children are sick. Another positive outcome is the dramatic, 30% fall in the number of divorces in young families. This may have to do with the fact that 83% of fathers on parental leave reported a stronger emotional attachment to their children, and many feel that they understand their partner much better than before. Apparently, the key to these positive effects is whether fathers get a chance to spend a longer period (at least 2 months) alone with their children, without the mother looking over their shoulders.
As for the second area, the new legislation has resulted in a spectacular increase in birthrates which exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. In 6 years, the number of birth per woman increased from 1.8 to 2.1. With that figure
Women on the job
The positive changes are also obvious where gender equality on the Icelandic job market is concerned. Employers no longer have the incitement to favour men over women, since men and women are equally likely to take parental leave at some point in their lives. Finally, the new law has also improved family finances. In the old system the economic compensation of parents was too low (often below the minimal wage). At present parents who are active on the labour market are paid 80% of their average salaries during the leave and the payments come from a specific fund, financed through an insurance levy. The unemployed or those on low income receive a minimum payment.
The modern father
And as if this was not enough, the new system seems to have triggered subtle but far-reaching changes in the way Icelanders look at gender roles and the traditional family model. More and more young men define themselves as a father before all else, and proud young men pushing prams have become an essential ingredient of the townscape all over the country.
Any hope for Danish fathers?
However, those young Danish men who become fathers in these weeks shouldn’t start clearing their desks yet. The law proposal meets considerable resistance among the governing liberal and conservative parties, who think that such a radical intervention into family life would go against the principal of personal choice. They also point to several unresolved issues around the financing of the proposed system. On the other hand, the law is warmly supported by the main employer organisations and the media, as well as the majority of voters, which might well force the government to reconsider its resistance.
Pictures: Icelandic children by Hiroshi Ichikawa, Icelandic flag: from the Internet