Father’s leave still a burning issue

Bookmark and Share

The debate over paternity leave in Norway continues, also after the election. Now a top finance industry official is urging an incoming Conservatives’-led government coalition to refrain from making any changes in the quota for parental leave targeted at fathers.

The current quota aimed at ensuring that fathers take parental leave along with mothers has won support from Idar Kreutzer, a business leader and father himself. PHOTO: Finans Norge

The current quota aimed at ensuring that fathers take parental leave along with mothers has won support from Idar Kreutzer, a business leader and father himself. PHOTO: Finans Norge

The head of the finance industry association Finans Norge, Idar Kreutzer (who’s also the former CEO of insurance firm Storebrand) is pleading for the “father quota,” the hefty 14-week chunk of parental leave currently reserved for Dads, to remain as it is.

“The workplace isn’t mature enough for the father quota to be dismantled,” he wrote in a commentary in newspaper Dagsavisen. The quota, Kreutzer feels, strengthens the man’s position in the family and the woman’s in the workplace, and the country still needs it.

“Pappaperm,” as paternity leave is popularly called in Norwegian, surprised many by becoming a key election issue. And it’s now on the negotiating table between the four non-socialist parties. The Conservatives and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) are keen to remove its quota for men, arguing that couples should decide themselves how to split it up. The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) and the Liberals (Venstre) want to maintain the quota for men (as do all three left-center parties). Speculation is rife that the Conservatives might back down on the issue.

So it’s significant that Finans Norge, one of the country’s biggest employers’ organizations, has taken up the issue.  Kretuzer said it was vital for employers to adapt and make arrangements for the different life phases of their workers in order to be attractive, and that this was just as true for the finance industry. Parental leave is no longer the right of the mother, but of both parents, wrote Kreutzer, who has many children himself. “The father won’t need to negotiate with his employer, and he doesn’t need to negotiate with the mother either,” Kreutzer argued, in order  to get the leave that he wants under the current system.

Another key industry head has previously come out in support of the father quota. Kristin Skogen Lund of employers’ organization NHO said back in May that it was naïve to believe fathers will still take long leave if the quota is scrapped. She pointed out how fathers in Denmark stopped taking leave when the quota was removed there.

Fathers now spend more time with their families
New studies show that fathers now spend almost an hour a day more on childcare and family time than they did 10 years ago, and men with children under seven spend less time at work and roughly two hours more a day on “family work” than they did in 1970.

“We’re scared that abolishing the father quota will turn back the clock and stop the positive developments we’ve seen over the past decades,” professor and writer Elin Kvande told newspaper Aftenposten.  Together with Berit Brandth of The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), she’s written a book celebrating the first 20 years of “pappaperm” and its impact on sexual equality and gender roles.

“We think that the father quota was like a nudge that strengthened a development that was already underway. It’s an important signal for fathers to be more involved at home,” said Ragni Hege Kitterød of Statistics Norway (SSB), one of the researchers for the book.

It’s fathers in Oslo who spend the most time of all with their babies. They took an average of 42 days leave (8.5 weeks), while the average for the country as a whole is 37 days (7.5 weeks). They’re also more likely to take consecutive leave, rather than combining gradual leave with part-time work, as Aftenposten‘s free Osloby newspaper reported.

Just 33 percent of Oslo fathers chose to take all 14 weeks of leave (or more). The father tends to take a larger share of the quota when the mother has high income and high career priorities.  Then the father tends to take the leave after the mother has returned to work but before the child in put into daycare (which is often when the child is around one year old in Norway).

The father quota was introduced by the Labour government in 1993, and since then it has been developed from 12 to 14 weeks reserved for the Dad. Under the current rules, fathers and mothers both have an equal quota of 14 weeks, and the rest of the time (18 weeks on full salary, or 28 weeks on 80 percent salary), can be split by both parents as they choose.

The paternity leave also became more flexible in 2007, so that it could be taken gradually, and combined with part-time work, right up until the child turns three. It’s one of the most generous leaves in the world, so fathers in Norway have it good compared to most, but are apparently struggling with the “time squeeze” of combining work and family life more than they used to.

newsinenglish.no/Elizabeth Lindsay