What longer paternity leave did for men in Spain

dad with new baby
© K Martinko

Their opinions shifted on a certain crucial matter.

In 2007 the Spanish government implemented a two-week paid leave for fathers of newborn babies. This was doubled in 2017, with an extra week added the following year, bringing the total number of weeks that new fathers are eligible to take to five. Further increases are expected by 2021.

There are numerous obvious benefits to programs like this one. It creates a bond between the father and child that lasts, with the father continuing to be more involved in the upbringing of the child in subsequent months and years. It takes some of the burden off the mother and gives her more time and space to rest and to feel less overwhelmed by the all-consuming task of raising a baby. It also makes a mother more likely to remain in the workforce, which boosts a nation's economy.

But the benefits don't stop there. Further research into the effects of Spain's paternity leave policy has uncovered an interesting fact – that fathers who participate more actively in childcare are less inclined to have more children, likely because they're more aware of how much work is involved.

This finding was published in the Journal of Public Economics in April 2019. The researchers found that couples who were just eligible for the new paternity leave took longer to have an additional child than those who just missed the eligibility date; and that "older eligible couples were less likely to have an additional child within the following six years after the introduction of the reform."

From Quartz's writeup of the study,

"After paternity leave was instituted, surveys of Spanish men ages 21 to 40 showed they desired fewer children than before. [Study authors] Farré and González think that spending more time with their children — or the prospect of having to do so — may have made men more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing, and, as the researchers put it, 'shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.'"

This, to me, is fascinating, as it reflects something I've observed anecdotally in my own social circle. It's usually the fathers who do the least amount of housework and child-raising that are most enthusiastic about making babies.

Curiously, the Spanish study also found that women become slightly more inclined to having additional children when men are more involved in parenting – perhaps because they're no longer shouldering most of the child-raising burden.

This is, of course, "a single data point in a single country," so we shouldn't jump to broad sweeping conclusions; but it's certainly some interesting food for thought, particularly in light of the burgeoning global population and the environmental concerns that that brings.

What longer paternity leave did for men in Spain
Their opinions shifted on a certain crucial matter.

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