Fitting fathers into work-family policies: international challenges in turbulent times

Margaret O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - To examine the international challenges of fitting fathers into work-family policies at a time of global economic turbulence.

Design/methodology/approach - A comparative policy analysis approach using international working time (ILO, OECD), paternity, maternity and parental leave data (ILO, International Review of Leave Policies and Related Research policy database) from selected rich, middle and poorer income nations. Leave policies are examined in relation to the place of fathers in the work-family policy mix between 2010 and 2011.

Findings - Short well-compensated paternity leave provision is emerging in poorer and middle income countries but none offer the range of father-targeted parental leave innovation observed in some richer nations. A comparison of leave policy changes effecting fathers between 2010 and 2011 showed resilience in face of economic downturn particularly in European countries.

Research limitations/implications - Global data on fathers’ working hours, paternity leave and men’s access to parental leave are difficult to access and more effort in data standardisation is required to build on this study.

Practical implications - Inter-governmental bodies play an important role the in the promotion of father-friendly employment measures even in countries with strong male breadwinner cultures.

Originality/value - This policy analysis extends scholarship on how societies promote and regulate cultural constructions of fatherhood in families and in the workplace. It suggests that drivers to fit fathers into work-family policies are mixed and do not easily map on to country classifications or policy regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-564
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2013

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