UNICEF encourages Irish Government to increase supports for fathers

On Father’s Day UNICEF encourages Irish Government to increase supports for fathers and families

 DUBLIN, 14 June 2018 – Almost two-thirds of the world’s children under 1 year old – nearly 90 million – live in countries where their fathers are not entitled by law to a single day of paid paternity leave, according to a new UNICEF analysis.

Ninety-two countries do not have national policies in place that ensure new fathers get adequate paid time off with their newborn babies, including India and Nigeria – which all have high infant populations. In comparison, other countries with high infant populations, including Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all have national paid paternity leave policies – as does Ireland – albeit offering relatively short-term entitlements.

Evidence suggests that when fathers bond with their babies from the beginning of life, they are more likely to play a more active role in their child’s development. Research also suggests that when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life-satisfaction in the long-term.

At present in Ireland, fathers are entitled to two weeks paternity leave. Fathers with sufficient PRSI contributions may qualify for a weekly payment of €240. Different payment rates are also available for fathers in receipt of social welfare payments or in other circumstances. Employers are not obliged to pay fathers who are on paternity leave. This policy was a welcome introduction in 2016 and marks progress, but in other European countries arrangements for fathers are more generous.

In the run up to the scheduled launch of Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy later this year, UNICEF Ireland encourages the government to continue to expand supports for fathers and family-friendly policies in Ireland, including paternity leave, parental leave and other entitlements. 

UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power says recent years have seen remarkable changes in the role that fathers play in the lives of children in Ireland and that this trend should be further supported: “Father’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the increasingly hands on role being played by fathers in Ireland. Old approaches are giving way to more active and nurturing styles of parenting by many fathers. This is fantastic to see as the scientific evidence shows the extraordinary benefits this style can bring for children and parents.”

“As any parent will tell you the bond with your young child is a very special thing. I am the father of four children and I know just how important this unique connection is for both child and parent. Having the time to be with your children is fundamental, especially when children are very young, as they explore the world and develop their personalities. At UNICEF Ireland we encourage the Government to strengthen family-friendly policies in Ireland. It is critical that parents have the time, resources and information they need to be there for their children and Ireland has the opportunity to be a world leader in supporting families and children.”

Currently Irish fathers are entitled to some of the shortest paid paternity and parental leave periods in Europe. Fathers in the majority of EU counties enjoy at least 14 weeks or more of paid paternity or parental leave. While the OECD average for total paid leave available for fathers stands at 6.2 weeks. These financial incentives to take longer leaves benefit fathers’ long-term involvement in their children’s development.

Around the world, momentum for family-friendly policies is growing. For example, in India, officials are proposing a Paternity Benefit Bill for consideration in the next session of Parliament, which would allow fathers up to three months of paid paternity leave. However, much work remains. In eight countries across the world, including the United States which is home to nearly 4 million infants, there is no paid maternity or paternity leave policy.

Advances in neuroscience have proven that when children spend their earliest years – particularly the first 1,000 days from conception to two years old – in a nurturing, stimulating environment, new neural connections form at optimal speed. These neural connections help to determine a child’s cognitive ability, how they learn and think, their ability to deal with stress, and can even influence how much they will earn as adults.   

The Lancet’s Series, Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale, launched in October 2016, revealed nearly 250 million children under 5 were at risk of poor development due to stunting and extreme poverty. The Series also revealed that programmes promoting nurturing care — health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, security and safety, and early learning — can cost as little as 50 cents per capita per year when combined with existing health services.

The new analysis forms part of UNICEF’s Super Dads campaign, now in its second year, which aims to break down barriers preventing fathers from playing an active role in their young children’s development. The campaign moment celebrates Father’s Day and focuses on the importance of love, play, protection and good nutrition for the healthy development of young children’s brains.

 

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Notes to Editors:

UNICEF was provided the list of countries with and without paid paternity leave policies by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Population figures come from 2017 UNPD. The full list of countries without paid paternity policies can be viewed here and additional information on Paternity leave can be found here.

 

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, to build a better world for everyone.

More information why #EarlyMomentsMatter, as well as parenting tips visit https://www.unicef.org/early-moments

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For more information, please contact:

Danny Smits, UNICEF Ireland, + 353 (0)1 878 3000, + 353 87 1308070, danny@unicef.ie

 

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