Longer paternity leave could help to bridge gender gap in France

Data from our study with La Fondation des Femmes suggests longer paternity leave is crucial in addressing gender inequalities in France.
18 March 2021
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Team Manager, Kantar Public, France

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In France, women are faced with a number of injustices when it comes to gender inequality, starting in the home. For example:

  • In 2016, 80% of women in France reported spending at least one hour a day cooking or cleaning compared to only 36% of men. This survey by the European Institute for Gender Equality has been conducted since 2003, and shows little change over this 13-year period.
  • In 2013, women were spending 1 hour and 33 minutes a day caring for their children, while men were spending 44 minutes. If we exclude leisure activities (social and recreational activities with the child) from this data collected by DREES (Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics Institute), this figure fell to just 33 minutes a day for men, compared to 1 hour 20 minutes for women.
  • Women earn 16.8% less than men in 2017, when looking at full-time equivalent wages, and the pay gap between women and men widens further as we move up the salary scale.

The imperative of assessing and monitoring the situation of women’s rights in France

Against this backdrop, Kantar Public partnered with La Fondation des Femmes to conduct an annual study designed to assess the situation of women in France and their rights. This barometer has so far been conducted for two consecutive years.

Our survey highlighted a number of issues particularly prominent in the workplace. For example, only 1 in 3 people in France (and more men than women) consider that equality between men and women has reached a satisfactory level in the workplace – a result similar to the previous years.

Narrowing down to specific areas of inequality, the position of women is judged as being less favourable than that of men by about 7 out of 10 French people when it comes to salary, the risk of harassment, income on retirement, the impact on careers when having children, access to positions of responsibility, and career development (promotions, pay rises).

This finding is even more pronounced among women (82% of women regarding salary): especially childless women regarding the risk of harassment (82%), and women with several children in terms of retirement income (82%) and career development opportunities (77%).

A longer paternity leave: one of the much-needed solutions to promote gender equality

To overcome these gender inequalities in family life as well as working life, one of the solutions often put forward is the introduction of a longer paternity leave (even equal to maternity leave). The argument presented is that in addition to providing fathers with time to look after their children and bond with them from the very first moment, a longer paternity leave would alleviate the burden currently experienced by women after childbirth, and establish a fairer division of household chores.

A longer paternity leave would also limit the negative impact on women’s careers – thus transforming a “women’s problem” into a “parents’ problem”. For instance, companies would no longer have a reason to favour the recruitment of a man over a woman for fear that the woman might have a child and be absent for a long period: a man might also request his full paternity leave.

Attitudes to paternity leave in France graph 

According to our survey, a majority of French people (women as well as men) favour the introduction of a longer paternity leave which currently stands at 2 weeks: 58% of French people would be in favour of a mandatory paternity leave of 6 weeks after birth (which would still be less than the current 10-week maternity leave in France).

For the full article on the case for longer, and even mandatory paternity leave in France, read our PUBLIC Journal on gender parity.

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Policy for parity: Taking actions to close the gender gaps
In this second edition of our journal, PUBLIC, we look at identifying and tackling complex gender gaps.
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