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The Fatherhood Penalty

We spent the first couple of years of married life living in Singapore, which is partly why I find studies about Asia-Pacific particularly interesting. When we talk studies of working parents, I expect a ‘work until you drop’ type attitude, with my having observed some of the hardest working twenty-somethings when we lived abroad. Turns out, however, that like their female counterparts,

50% of fathers believed that taking extended leave has had a detrimental effect on their career, with 7 in 10 feeling that their career progression slowed down after having a child.”

The study uncovered several key themes across Asia-Pacific that illustrated major shifts in perceptions and the experiences faced following paternity leave;

  1. Firstly the ability and attraction of fathers taking paternal leave is key to mothers being able to progress in their careers. The model of ‘shared paternal leave’ adopted by the UK and most of Europe is only successful if fathers are indeed sharing the load. And this is where the second key theme is showing up;
  2. What the research is pointing to is that;

more than half (54%) of fathers have taken shorter parental leave than what they were permitted or would have liked.

Does this point to the double whammy that women have encountered for years of feeling ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t?’

3. Seems this is precisely the case with the burden of guilt showing up in fathers across the region too.

“Over two thirds (68%) feel professional pressures now negatively impact their ability to be the parent they’d like to be, whilst three-in-five (57%) feel guilty that they don’t spend enough time with their children”

In South Africa we have only just achieved 3 weeks’ paternity leave and even that seems a stretch for the dads I am observing in my practice. But just as young women have observed their senior counterparts up the pipeline and how they manage their maternity leave,

so our millennial men are looking for role models on how to embrace fatherhood, in a society of largely absent fathers.


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