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  • Inclusiveness of Parental-Leave Benefits in Twenty-One European Countries:Measuring Social and Gender Inequalities in Leave Eligibility
  • Ivana Dobrotić (bio) and Sonja Blum (bio)

This article analyzes eligibility for parental-leave benefits in twenty-one European countries. It distinguishes four ideal-type approaches to how leave-related benefits are granted (in-)dependent of parents' labor market position: universal parenthood model, selective parenthood model, universal adult-worker model, and selective adult-worker model. An eligibility index is created to measure the inclusiveness of parental-leave benefits, alongside the degree of (de-)gendered entitlements. The importance of employment-based benefits and gender-sensitive policies increased between 2006 and 2017. Eligibility criteria remained stable, but due to labor market trends, such as increasing precariousness, fewer parents may fulfill the conditions for employment-based benefits.

Introduction

Comparative leave policy literature usually analyzes the scope of leave rights, that is, leave duration and benefit levels, and (to a lesser extent) leave transferability (Ciccia and Verloo 2012; Ray, Gornick, and Schmitt 2010) or flexibility (Javornik 2014). Very little is known about leave eligibility, leaving the interaction between leave policy design and social inequalities underexplored (McKay, Mathieu, and Doucet 2016). At the same time, research indicates that access to childcare-related leave is particularly contingent on labor market inequalities and that leave policies may differently (dis-)advantage various social groups, as well as men and women (Cantillon 2011; Ghysels and Van Lancker 2011; Koslowski and Kadar-Satat 2018). That particularly relates to leave benefits (Dobrotić and Blum 2019; McKay, Mathieu, and Doucet 2016); [End Page 588] yet still too little is known about their eligibility criteria. It is thus necessary to gain a deeper understanding of statutory entitlements to leave rights.

Childcare-related leave includes maternity, paternity, and parental leave. Maternity leave is typically seen as a health-related right available only to mothers, to be taken just before, during, and immediately after childbirth. Similarly, paternity leave is granted to fathers around childbirth (OECD 2011). Parental leave is a care-related right available to both mothers and fathers after the initial maternity/paternity leave and is typically of longer duration. Parental leave may be paid, and in these cases, we refer to parental-leave benefits. They differ from other family benefits (e.g., child benefit) because of their clear linkage to limitations regarding (the amount of) employment, that is, paid parental leave gives not only the right to take time off from work to focus on care but also the duty, since parents are typically not allowed to work (fulltime) while on leave. Moreover, for inactive or unemployed parents, parentalleave benefits also include time off from actively looking for a job to focus on care.1 As elaborated in the methodology section, this article focuses on parental-leave benefits (rather than leave time as such), since they are most telling when it comes to social and gender inequalities in leave policy design.

The aim of this article is to explore recent developments in statutory entitlements to parental-leave benefits in European countries. We build on a conceptual framework developed in our previous work (Dobrotić and Blum 2019): stemming from social rights literature and comparative family policy literature, we distinguish different approaches to how parental-leave rights are granted (in-)dependent of parents' labor market position. Four ideal parentalleave entitlement types were identified: universal parenthood model, selective parenthood model, universal adult-worker model, and selective adult-worker model. Following this conceptual framework, this article goes a step forward and classifies parental-leave policy developments in twenty-one European countries (comparing years 2006 and 2017) to identify their character and eventual shifts in statutory entitlements. Specifically, an eligibility index is developed to measure the inclusiveness of parental-leave benefits in the compared countries, alongside the degree of (de-)gendered entitlements.

Our first point of investigation is 2006, since parental-leave policies were implemented later compared to other welfare state schemes (Gauthier 1996) but reached a certain maturity at that time. Comparison with the second point (2017) allows an adequate time period to capture changes in the character of leave entitlements, which may occur, among others, as a reaction to recent structural challenges and paradigmatic shifts in Europe; namely...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2893
Print ISSN
1072-4745
Pages
pp. 588-614
Launched on MUSE
2020-11-17
Open Access
No
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