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Fewer Fathers in Iceland Take Paternity Leave

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Fewer Fathers in Iceland Take Paternity Leave

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Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The number of fathers in Iceland who take paternity leave has decreased since the banking collapse in 2008. In 2009, 90 percent of new fathers took time off work to be at home with their newborns, while in 2013, the ration was down to 77 percent.

“We’ve been looking at changes to the childbirth leave in the past years. The development is the consequence of the economic collapse,” as Director of the Center for Gender Equality Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir told visir.is.

Minister of Social Affairs Eygló Harðardóttir considers the development to be serious. “The number of births is down and fewer fathers take childbirth leave. I’ve established a task force to work on the future arrangement of the parental leave.”

Eygló explained that men with a higher income are more likely to take paternity leave than those with a lower income. “Part of the reason might be the situation on the labor market. Fathers with a lower income are more concerned about their positions.”

Leó Þorleifsson, director of the Maternity/Paternity Leave Fund, believes amendments to the laws concerning the fund are the main reason for the development.

“The Icelandic childbirth leave system was considered to be exemplary. More and more fathers took childbirth leave until the economic collapse in 2008,” he said.

In response to the economic situation, the maximum payment from the fund was cut, and coupled with changes to Icelandic society, fewer fathers could afford to take time off work to be with their children, Leó concludes.

“The limit is far too low and both men and women are looking at significant cuts to their salaries during the [leave] period,” agrees Kristín.

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