Taking Time Off
Once paid parental leave ends, couples begin to consider unpaid parental leave - but women and men differ in the way that they think about reducing their working hours. Xiana Bueno (Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics) and Marc Grau-Grau (Harvard Kennedy School) conducted a qualitative analysis of the narratives of 52 partnered young adults aged 24 to 35 years old in urban Spain. The researchers found that couples consider utilizing three unpaid parental leave use strategies: both partners taking unpaid leave; only the woman taking it; or neither partner taking it. However, the narratives framing these approaches differed by gender. Men seem to overestimate the egalitarianism in their relationships: they were more optimistic about taking part-time unpaid parental leave than women were about their partners. Even amongst couples who show strong gender-egalitarian attitudes, a gendered use of this policy persists due to economic uncertainty and labour-market barriers such as persistent gender inequality. Bueno & Grau-Grau’s study thus contributes to a better understanding of the relationship between gender, the labour market and unpaid parental leave: a policy that is gender-neutral on its face does not necessarily result in egalitarianism.