Paternity leave around the world: a comparison

Having some time away from work is really important when you welcome a new child into the world, for both mums and dads.

In the UK, we're moving on from times where mums had deal with all the childcare on their own. More new dads are opting to make use of their paternity leave to spend quality time with their newborn - really important for bonding and setting the foundation for a healthy relationship with their child and partner. There's still a way to go - 40% of men in the UK don't take any paternity leave at all. Shocking, but that figure is thankfully trending downwards.

Unfortunately many countries still offer limited options; it's just not as much of a priority as it could (and should) be in some places. The USA for example - the biggest economy in the world - doesn't guarantee fathers any paternity leave at all.

So, there's a big variety in parental leave policies around the world. More and more dads (and their supporters) are advocating for paid paternity leave - are we beginning to see things even out a bit? Let's see how things are around the world.

An issue of equality

New mothers are offered some kind of parental leave in 185 of the world's 195 countries, but leave is offered to fathers in just 103. This map shows an interesting illustration of parental leave offerings all around the world, and some of the most developed nations are starkly lacking:

Gender equality is a major issue around the world today, and although it usually refers to issues where women aren't treated fairly, it's relevant in this case too. Paternity leave isn't just about giving dads a break from work: it's about them being at home to help mum take care of the newborn.

Jody Heymann, the World Policy Analysis Center founder, says that if gender equality is to be realised at home and at work, men must be given "an equal chance to be there with their newborn babies". The UK, along with various other European nations, has the option for mothers and fathers to share their leave, enabling fathers to spend more time at home with their new baby if they share the leave with mum.

Variations around the world

South Korea and Japan are ahead of the curve for paternity leave by far. New fathers are entitled to up to 12 months of leave to stay at home with newborn children, though the OECD reports that surprisingly few new fathers take advantage of this generous offering.

Countries such as France, Canada and Russia offer new fathers at least 14 weeks of leave. Emerging economies like India are working on improving their paternity leave options, and developing nations like Gambia and Rwanda have been introducing it in some form since 2010. With this in mind, the lack of options for paternity (and even maternity) leave in the USA is really quite startling.

The U.S. is home to 4 million newborns, yet it stands alongside Suriname, Papua New Guinea and some Pacific Island states in not having an established law guaranteeing parental leave for either parent. That said, many US states are introducing paid leave policies, citing a recognition of the importance of a father's role in his baby's life.

More and more Western companies are realising the importance of offering paid paternity leave to the wellbeing and loyalty of their employees, so you'll likely see the more progressive companies offering more than the bare minimum.

Photo by The Honest Company / Unsplash

It's not always about the economy

Paid paternity leave is offered in countries of all economic status.

Interestingly, in nations like Brazil, with a high infant population and upper-middle average income, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, with low average income, less than 3 weeks of paid paternity leave is offered. Meanwhile, low-income Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia offer a minimum of 14 weeks paid paternity leave. The general trend is that nations with higher GDP provide more generously, but it's not always the case.

Momentum is growing in favour of family-friendly policies in the developing world, and a number of African nations have introduced paid paternity leave over the last 10 years. Mauritius introduced 1 week in 2008, Rwanda introduced 4 days in 2010, and Gambia has introduced 14 days.

It goes without saying that your business will be much more attractive to new recruits with a generous paternity leave option. If you're a business owner, it's worth considering whether you're offering enough. Could you encourage new dads to take more leave? Could you offer paid paternity leave above the government minimum? If so, you're likely to see happier families, better wellbeing, and lower staff turnover. Surely it's worth trying.