Increasing gender equality in society has also resulted in changing expectations of what it means to be a father. Family policies must be adapted accordingly, according to two researchers in a new SNS report.
In the SNS report The Modern Father – Changing Preconditions for Fatherhood, Lina Aldén and Anne Boschini point out that the ideal father is now someone who is engaged in caring for the child already at a young age, is a good parent while also having a good and stable income.
“We see that the social skills of men play an increasingly important role in terms of their likelihood of becoming a parent. This applies regardless of income level and whether or not they have a partner. At the same time, fathers who do not take any parental leave at all are increasingly low-income earners who earn less than the mother,” says Lina Aldén, associate professor of economics.
Fathers taking parental leave at an early stage in their children’s lives are generally also more involved in caring for their children as they get older, according to Aldén and Boschini. However, a substantial portion of men still take less than the three months reserved for fathers. According to the report, approximately one in six fathers do not take a single day of parental leave before their children turn two. Meanwhile, most mothers go on parental leave for a drastically longer period of time compared to the respective fathers. This, the researchers highlight, contributes to continued economic inequality.
“Clearly, we need to do more to ensure that men take responsibility for caring for their children at an early stage. One way of doing so might be by requiring that the reserved days in the parental leave insurance are taken out before the age of two. Or simply by allocating half of the parental leave days to each parent,” says Anne Boschini, professor of economics.
Another approach might be to expand parental support to include more measures aimed at fathers, write Aldén and Boschini. One thing they propose is organizing special father groups at children’s health care centers. They also want to see measures in primary school aimed at supporting young boys in developing social skills. Such measures, according to the report, could be important on several levels, as social skills have become increasingly important, not only when it comes to forming a family but also for succeeding in the labor market.
“We see a risk of an increased polarization between men who ‘have everything’ and men who face poorer prospects both in the labor market and when it comes to having a family. We need to counteract such a trend. Not only to help individual men – it is in the interest of society at large that more men get skills demanded in the labor market,” says Anne Boschini.
about the seminar series
The report The Modern Father – Changing Preconditions for Fatherhood is presented as part of the seminar series “Gender Equality in the 2020s” in collaboration with the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) at Stockholm University. This is a forum where people from academia, industry, public administration and other important actors in society gather to exchange knowledge and experiences on issues related to gender equality. The aim is to highlight areas from a number of different perspectives where gender equality is currently lacking or is likely to be lacking in the long term.
about the authors
Anne Boschini is a professor of economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) at Stockholm University.
Lina Aldén is an associate professor of economics at Linnaeus University.