Fertility Discourse in Parental Leave Policies' Media Coverage: A Frame Analysis of French-speaking Swiss Press Articles from 1999 to 2009


This paper analyses the media coverage of parental leave policies (parental and paternity leaves) in Swiss French-speaking press articles from 1999 to 2009. Switzerland is one of the rare European countries which has no statutory parental or paternity leave. The aim is to describe the mediatisation of these policies and to analyse the arguments in favour and against their implementation. We investigate the status of a fertility frame - the mobilisation of discourse relating to fertility issues - among the various arguments used to justify or reject parental leave policies. We proceed with a content analysis of 579 press articles, as well as a frame analysis on a subset in which parental leave policies are the central theme (N=206).

Results show that paternity leave is the predominant public issue addressed in the dataset. A mediatisation peak was reached in 2007, following an initiative of a member of the Federal executive to implement a short paternity leave. Parental leave policies are predominantly represented in a positive light. The main positive frame is economic, in which leaves are represented as serving the interests of companies. Involved fatherhood and gender equality are also frequently mentioned as positive frames. The fertility frame is only moderately used in articles covering Swiss news on paternity leaves. Conversely, the fertility frame is largely mobilised in articles covering parental leave in other countries. We discuss some interpretations of this discrepancy and suggest future avenues of research on parental leave policies in Switzerland.