Public policies encouraging fathers to take up parental leave after childbirth have been proven to not only have positive effects on fathers and their children, but also to have a positive influence in changing traditional gender roles and advancing gender equality in the household and labor market. As a result of these findings, many countries are implementing parental leave schemes that include time that is reserved for the father only, or offering other incentives to encourage fathers to take a few months of leave.
Israel has yet to join this important policy trend, and the state’s current parental leave policy is outdated and less generous than what is becoming the norm in other modern economies. As opposed to other countries, Israel does not provide fathers with significant paid leave, nor does she allow families to take extended paid parental leave after the maternity leave has ended. Even though the current policy allows mothers to transfer some of their leave to the fathers, the uptake of this entitlement is close to nothing.
Our report shows that two conditions are necessary in order to increase fathers’ uptake of parental leave: a separate time reserved for fathers that cannot be transferred to the other parent and significant compensation for the loss of wages. Different types of leave, such as a low/non-paid leave or a leave that is given as a family entitlement, are either left unused or are used by the mothers only.
The average public expenditure among OECD countries for all types of leave (maternal, paternal and parental) is 12,316 dollars per child. This number is 2.6 times larger than the average public expenditure per child in Israel, which is only 4,685 dollars. Even if we weigh in Israel’s high birthrate the public expenditure on parental leave in Israel is significantly lower than the OECD average.
Studies show that although the public costs of generous leave policies for parents are high, the gains for the economy are more significant. This is due to the fact that these policies raise women’s participation rate in the workforce. A growth rate of only one percent in participation is sufficient enough in returning what the public had invested in these leave policies.
Our report offers an analysis of Israel’s parental leave policy, and recommends steps that would significantly increase the uptake of leave by fathers. We present the theoretical and practical considerations for creating a policy reform in this field, along with an international comparison on leave policies worldwide. The report includes a wide international comparison next to an in-depth look at eight countries that have already implemented policies aimed at increasing fathers’ uptake of leave.
Recommendations for Policy Reform
Due to the proven positive impacts of a significant parental leave for fathers, both on families as a whole and on women’s place in the labor market, we see great importance in creating incentives that would allow fathers to execute their rights to parental leave and to active parenting.
We suggest a two-step model, which takes into consideration Israel’s specific characteristics. As a first step, we recommend a short-term model with lower public costs, which could already set the desired change into motion. However, in order to create a strong foundation for equal parenting in Israel, a more generous model is needed. This proposed model offers significant extension of leave reserved for fathers, as well as maternity leave, and bring Israel’s parental leave policy closer to what is customary in countries with more progressive leave policies.
Step One: An Additional Month – Two Weeks for Fathers and Two Weeks for Mothers
Within the proposed model, a two-week non-transferable period of leave will be exclusively reserved for the father. If the father uses this period, an additional two weeks will be given as a bonus to the family, to be used by either of the parents. The parents will receive 100 percent of wage compensation for this month, under the same restrictions of the current leave policy.
The father could take one of these two weeks when the mother is still at home, but the second week can only be used with her return to work.
Step Two: Adapting the Icelandic Model to Israel
- In the long run, we propose a reform based on the Icelandic model, which offers a nine month leave, within which three months are reserved for the mother, three for the father and three which can be shared between the parents as they choose. Given the high birthrate and other budget limitations unique for Israel, we propose a slightly shorter period of 33 weeks, fully paid: 11 for the mother, 11 for the father and 11 that can be divided to the choice of the parents.
- We propose separating fathers’ entitlement to leave from the entitlement of their spouses. Changing the existing norms of the labor market and succeeding in increasing gender equality, is highly dependent on implementing the idea that fathers’ right to active parenting stands on its own and is not dependent on the mothers’. We suggest providing a “daddy quota” as an entitlement for fathers only, a “mommy quota” as an entitlement for mothers only, and the shared period as a family entitlement.
- The model will be adapted to fit parents of the same sex as well.