There’s a gender gap in paid parental leave, and it may not be the one you think. Since 1970, maternity leave has increased around the world, while paternity leave has been left behind, reports the World Bank. Over the last 50 years, the number of countries with policies for paternity leave has risen from 13 countries in 1970 to 114 in 2021. But the current average length of that leave is just 21 days, compared to an average 191 days of maternity leave.
One reason for increasing paternity leave is to correct the gaps in labor force participation, salaries and promotions for women in the workplace. Data shows that the gender gap in the labor market is strongly correlated with motherhood — paid paternity leave could help fathers take on a more proportionate share of child care.
But providing equal paid leave doesn’t mean that parental leave is used equally; in some Nordic countries, 40% of fathers use their paid leave, while in countries like the Czech Republic, or Poland, that number drops to only 2%. The notable exception is the U.S., which has no federal support for paid parental leave for either mothers or fathers.