Father’s Day: How to Avert a Crisis of Care?

Spain-Saxby-RyanNG-crop1* Tatiana Moura and Sofia José Santos

Today, March 19th, some countries are celebrating Father’s Day: Mozambique, Croatia, Bolivia, Honduras, Italy, Portugal and Spain, among others. The date was institutionalized in 1910 by the United States, and only recently has been used to celebrate advancement in paternity care worldwide. This has happened, in part, because since the celebration has been institutionalized, fathers roles as well as their own expectations have undergone several changes. But there is a long way to go.

In the United States, in the 1970s, fathers devoted only 15 minutes of their day to care tasks towards their children. Since 2000, on the other hand, parents devote nearly two hours of their day to the same tasks. This change represents a 400% increase of fathers’ time dedicated to their children in just one generation. But despite this remarkable achievement, there is progress to be made.

Currently, women make up as much as 40% of the workforce worldwide, but men are still far from performing the same level of domestic and care work. Remember: approximately four out of five men worldwide will be fathers at some point in their lives; and nearly all the world’s men have some connection to children as stepfathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, teachers, mentors, coaches or simply as friends. Globally, an overwhelming amount of evidence confirms that engaged, responsive fatherhood and men’s participation in their children’s lives have positive effects for women, children and men themselves; these benefits include, among others, gender equality, women’s empowerment and non-violence.

According to a study undertaken by the Equimundo and the Fatherhood Institute, paternity leave policies would create the necessary conditions for committed fatherhood, directly influence behavior among parents, and raise awareness concerning the importance of a fatherhood dedicated to affection and care. In Europe, several countries have put forward positive regulatory changes concerning paternity leave, both with regard to wage replacement rates and the amount of time allocated for the leave. All over the world, advances such as these have been undertaken.

However, within today’s economic and financial crisis affecting much of Europe, this progress is threatened due to the subsequent governments’ austerity policies, such as cutting public expenditure, raising taxes, reducing labour protection and the retreat of the welfare state. Also, an increasing financial stress among European families, on a daily basis, puts in danger the recognition and protection of these rights. In times of financial crisis, averting the crisis of affection and care is one of the biggest challenges we face.

* Tatiana Moura is the Executive Director of Instituto Equimundo in Brazil; Sofia José Santos is the Communications Coordinator of Equimundo-Europe.