Denmark gives new fathers paid leave. Why do so few take it?

For progressives in the United States, Denmark seems like a socialist paradise. Danes pay a significant portion of their income in taxes, and their government provides a wide range of services in return, including health care, child care, education, and paid parental leave.

In Denmark, new moms have four weeks off for the final stage of their pregnancy. After the baby is born, moms have 14 weeks off, dads have two weeks off, and then there are nearly eight months that parents decide how to split. The arrangement is similar for same-sex couples and adoptive parents. Most Danish employers give their workers their full salary for part of that time, and for the rest of it, the Danish government gives all citizens a stipend.

The problem is in the averages: Danish mothers take 10 months of parental leave; Dads take only one month off. That gap has consequences for Danish men and women at work and at home.

For the final episode of season two, the Impact travels to Denmark, to find out why Danish dads are thumbing their noses at months of paid parental leave. We also discover a solution in another Scandinavian country, where dads are enjoying more time off with their new babies.

Learn more:

  • Read Sarah’s explainer on the true causes of the gender wage gap
  • Watch the episode of Vox’s Netflix show, Explained, that explores what happens when men spend less time in caregiving roles
  • Want to learn even more about gender roles in Denmark? Check out this interesting study from a Princeton economist, who looked at how earnings change for Danish men and women after the birth of a child.
  • Sarah, Matt, and Ezra talked a bit more about Denmark and how other countries handle child care policy on a recent episode of the Weeds.

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