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Expanding paternity leave in Spain lowers the birth rate News

by News Room
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Extending paternity leave in Spain may have a negative effect on the birth rate. This is what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warns about in its recent Society of a Glance report. Reconciling family and work life “can be difficult” in Spain, especially “because of the very long working hours of fathers,” the OECD said in the report.

This has made parents more aware of the non-financial costs of having a child and less enthusiastic about having the next child.

Low birth rate and older mothers

In 2023, Spain had one of the lowest fertility rates among the 38 OECD countries, with just 1.2 children per woman. This is comparable to France and only higher than South Korea, where the figure is 0.7. The average age of the first child in Spain has risen to 32 years. Despite efforts to increase birth rates and promote health equity, these measures, along with other factors, sometimes appear to have the opposite effect.

Effects of extended paternity leave

Until 2007, Spaniards only had two days off when a child was born. This was extended to two weeks until 2017 and then to four weeks. From 2021, both parents are entitled to 16 weeks of non-transferable leave upon the birth of a child. According to a 2019 academic study, extending paternity leave to two weeks in 2007 delayed the birth of a first child and reduced the likelihood of having a second child within six years. Fathers’ increased participation in childcare may have increased mothers’ participation in the labor market, which increased the cost of having an additional child.

Comparison with other countries

Spain is the only OECD and EU country where these negative effects of extended paternity leave have been observed. South Korea has shown a similar trend, as fathers who took family leave did not want another child. In contrast, Germany has shown a positive example, where the expansion of paternity leave in 2007 has led to an increase in the birth rate and increased participation of fathers in care.

OECD recommendations

An important factor in Spain and South Korea is the difficult balance between work and family, especially due to the long working hours of fathers. According to the Spanish INE, male employees work an average of 37.1 hours per week, while women work 33.1 hours. In addition, there are often difficulties in Spain regarding the availability and affordability of childcare for children under the age of three.

The OECD concludes that increased awareness of the non-financial costs of raising children has reduced parents’ enthusiasm for having children. The organization emphasizes that measures aimed at reducing job insecurity can have a positive effect on fertility. For example, in 1997, support from Spanish local authorities to convert temporary jobs into permanent jobs led to a 1.43 percent increase in the birth rate.

“baby check”

Another policy that increased the birth rate in Spain was the universal child benefit between 2007 and 2010. This was known as “cheque-bebé”; A payment of 2,000 euros upon the birth of a child. This support led to a 3 percent increase in the birth rate. The cancellation of this program in 2010 subsequently led to a 6% drop in the birth rate.

The Sumar party, inspired by the Zapatero government’s measure, proposes a universal child allowance, which is 200 euros per month until the age of 18. The Family Policy Act is currently being considered by Congress, and it also includes a 100-euro child allowance for each child under the age of three in order to reduce child poverty.

Also read: Spain among world leaders in terms of equal parental leave

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