Gender Equality: Seeing Men As Equal Caregivers

Neha Patil, (Third-year BBA-LLB Hons at the University of Mumbai Law Academy)

Introduction

India is a country with a population of 1,326,093,247 (July 2020 est.). About 10 million people are employed in India's private sector. As compared to men, women formed 23.6% of the labor force in 2018. In the past, men were always considered as the bread earners of the family. Women used to stay at home and take care of the family and men would go out and earn. Times have changed now, and women empowerment has become a topic of relevance all over the world.


Laws have been amended and policies have been made to empower women and protect their interests. Women too are now earning for their families and their successes are rightly celebrated everywhere. To facilitate the progress of women in the society, they have also been given benefits such as like reservations in government bodies and corporate offices. Protective policies like maternity leave and safeguard against sexual harassment at the workplace, have contributed majorly to a working woman’s experience. The maternity act gives benefit to leaving to the expecting mother before and after childbirth.


However, we must break the stereotype that caregiving is just a mother's job and not that of a father. Paternity leave is a man's right to take leave after the birth of his child.


Objective

This article focuses on the importance of identifying and acknowledging the need for paternity leave. Furthermore, this paper intends to break the stereotype that caregiving is just not a mother's job but also of a father. Paternity leave is a man’s right to take leave after the birth of his child.


Review of Literature

Despite the social and economic conditions of women in India, the labour force participation of women in 2018 is 23.6% compared to 78.6% men. The reasons behind this lower participation in the labour force are - to pursue higher education, non-traditional jobs, flexible work etc..[i]


In India, women prefer a work environment that is flexible and suitable for their familial responsibilities. Their career choices are affected by patriarchal and religious standards. Avoiding jobs that require transfer, movement, physical power, or long working hours results in women accepting opportunities with less payment but more flexibility to manage their familial responsibilities. In terms of family duties, women spend more time on household chores and taking care of children and the elderly than men. The Maternity Benefits Act 2017 as well as Labour Code on Social Security 2018 fails to consider the challenges faced by women in informal work. There is a need for special policies that can ease this burden of work for them and prompt gender equality.[ii]


The thinking that man must go out and work is a barrier to gender equality. Both the parents are caretakers of the child and not just the mother. It is important to consider that father's physical and emotional availability is of as much importance in the child's upbringing as much as it is of a mother. It is essential to identify and acknowledge the need for paternity leave for the father to take care of his new bore. This will not just strengthen the relationship between the child and the father, but will also motivate the mother to return to work sooner and achieve greater goals.


Josh Levs is a former CNN journalist and the author of All In How Our Work- First Culture Fails Dad, Families, and Businesses- And How We Can Fix It Together says, "Women will never have equal opportunities in the workplace until we make sure that we are treating men as equal caregivers at home."[iii]


Gender inequality has always been a grave issue in India. Since the independence of our country, the country has struggled for social, economic, and political stability. Our economic status has always been changing but one thing remained constant the female participation. Countries with a stronger economy have more female participation compared to India. If the gender gap is removed from the labor force participation, it is expected that Gross Domestic Product will increase by a net 27 percent.[iv]

The pregnancy and maternity leaves cause a gap in the career of a woman which gives men an edge in society. This gap and difference can be reduced if there were common policies for men and women.


According to the Global, Gender Gap Report of 2018 published by the World Economic Forum India is where on average women spend five times more time on unpaid tasks, like housework, a household in comparison with men. Due to these reasons, they spend less time on a paid profession which results in less contribution of women in the national economy.[v]

The gender gap in India is 33 percent, however, there is an improvement in wage equality for similar work. The report also concludes by says that India is responsible to widen the gender gap in this subindex of 2018.[vi]


A research paper published by economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research found that parental leave policies did not change the financial position of the company.[vii]

In India, the employees of the government sector are allowed 15 days of paternity leave. In 1999, the Central Government released a notification under Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 551(A) which laid down provisions for paternity leave. The father with less than two surviving children can apply for 15 days of paternity leave 6 months before the birth of his child and he shall be paid complete salary.


There is no such law for private sector employees. However, major multinational companies provide paternity leaves through their HR polices.

  • Microsoft provides 12 weeks of paternity leave.

  • Infosys provides 5 days of paternity leave.

  • Facebook provides 17 weeks of paternity leave.

  • Starbucks provides 12 weeks of paternity leave.

  • TCS provides 15 days of paternity leave.

  • Oracle provides 5 days of paternity leave.

  • Deloitte provides 16 weeks of paternity leave.

  • UNICEF has become the first United Nation Agency to extend its paternity leave from standard 4 weeks to 16 weeks.


In India, in the case of Chander Mohan Jain v. N.K. Bagrodia Public School, a private school teacher, Mr. Jain moved to the High Court of Delhi due to the rejection of his application for paternity leave and deduction of his salary to take leave to perform his parental duties towards his newborn baby. Delhi High Court held that all male employees of unaided recognised private schools are entitled to paternity leave. It directed the school to pay him the deducted salary.


Following the introduction of Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, Rajeev Satav proposed Paternity Benefit Act in September 2017 in Lok Sabha.

  • The act is applicable to whole of India including men employed in mine, factory, plantation, Government sector or private sector, including those working in self employed or unorganised sector where less than ten persons are employed.

  • The employee is entitled to a paid paternity leave with the rate of average daily wage or minimum rate of wage fixed or revised under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 or ten rupees whichever is the highest rate.

  • The man who has worked for not less than 8 days in the twelve months will be eligible for the leave. The man with less than two surviving children, within 3 months of the birth of child, shall be entitled for the leave period of fifteen days, of which not more than seven days shall precede the date of expected delivery.


Suggestions

Companies and firms should encourage and support employees to take paternity leaves. It is important to have a supportive work culture which recognises the needs of its employees.

It is very important that this paternity leave is a paid leave. In most families, Men earn more than women and one can’t deny the stigma attached with paternity leaves. It is unlikely that a father would take an unpaid paternity, as this will cause financial issues in the family. It may also be due to the fear of being judged in the society. As a result, majority of the parents prefer maternity leaves because of traditional genders roles.


Conclusion

In many parts of the world fathers are changing the traditional social pattern of mother being the only caregivers. Today, fathers are showing their involvement in childcare. However, it is reported that countries like Russia and Brazil resist the change in traditional gender roles; and for UK the parenting duties of father are more of a vision than a reality. In the Indian society too the struggle is constant.


To have an efficient employee, it is important to provide them with health benefits and a comfortable work environment and ensure their physical and mental health. In a country like India, paternity leave will encourage fathers to parent their children better and will help him get recognised as a co-parent and not a secondary parent. This will change the traditional gender role and will promote gender equality. The involvement of father in childcare has a positive effect on both child and mother. Equal parental leave policies will increase the chances of women to return to their jobs without any fear or uncertainty.


[i]https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html#field-anchor-people-and-society-population [ii]https://www.google.com/amp/s/theire.in/women/indian-women-work-care-informal-sector/amp/ [iii]https://qz.com/work/158934/enforcing-paternity-leave-could-lead-to-gender-equality-on-wall-street-amp/ [iv]Women_Empowerment_in_India_A_Way_Ahead.pdf, p.g. no. 24 [v]Global Gender Gap Report of 2018, p.g. no. 19 [vi]Ibid, p.g. no. 25 [vii]https://m.economictimes.com/magazines/panache/flexi-hours-in-india-denmaark-52-week-paid-absence-look-at-parental-leave-policies-across-the-world/amp_articleshow/73519919.cms

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