child holding his father's leg

New research shows how the distribution of parental leave among parents is influenced by expectations and gender norms

Given the persistent gender inequality in the workplace, it is important to understand the factors that influence or drive parents' decisions about how much parental leave to take. Traditional family responsibilities have changed, but women still more often take care of the family and children than men do. This affects the labour market and even the outcomes of children.

A new dissertation in economics written by Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel provides important insights into why parental leave is often unevenly divided between mothers and fathers.

"To understand why this is the case, it is important to consider various factors – such as how easy it is to take time off from work to be with the child, the financial situation of the family, social expectations, and individual beliefs," says Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel. "In my research, I examine how societal norms, gender stereotypes, and parental biases influence the amount of parental leave parents take and other behavioral outcomes.”

Provides valuable insights

"The study, which consists of three parts, uses various methods to examine parents' behaviours and to understand what factors influence their decisions," she explains.

In the first part of the study, Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel examined how social gender norms affect how much parental leave mothers and fathers take by conducting a survey experiment in the UK. It emerged here that information about how other parents choose to divide parental leave can affect how much parental leave prospective parents plan to take. If fathers hear that other fathers take a lot of parental leave, they are also more likely to do so themselves.

Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel
Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel

"Each part of the dissertation provides valuable insights that can help create more equal parental leave uptake and, hence, a more egalitarian labour market."

In the second part of the study, by measuring both implicit and explicit gender role stereotypes among participants from Sweden, she found that individual beliefs of how men and women should behave also play a role. For mothers, the more traditional stereotypes they held, the more parental leave they took, while the opposite was true for fathers.

In the final part of the study, this time utilising micro registers from Sweden, Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel looked at how the gender of the first child affects parents' behaviours. She came to the conclusion that the sex of the child did not significantly influence the parents’ behaviours.

"Each part of the dissertation provides valuable insights that can help create more equal parental leave uptake and, hence, a more egalitarian labour market. The study also shows that there are different ways to influence parents' behaviours through various policy measures."

Information campaigns

In the conclusion of the study, the importance of understanding and addressing gender differences in parental leave is emphasised. Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel suggests that information campaigns underlining the increase in the paternity leave uptake can be effective. She also suggests that policy measures addressing gender-specific stereotypes can help increase the equality level in the parental leave uptake.

"My research provides valuable guidance for policies and research aimed at promoting gender equality in society. By understanding the various factors that influence parents' behaviour, we can work towards a more equal and fair distribution of parental leave between mothers and fathers," Asuman Kemiksiz Erenel concludes.