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Abstract: While most types of unpaid work have
become considerably more equally divided over decades, child care that requires
leave from paid work is still extremely gender specialized. Understanding
conditions of paid work that can make leave-taking for both parents possible is
crucial to halt the onset of gender specialization in couples. In this study,
Sweden is utilized as a context in which the family policy constellation
provides a real opportunity for both fathers’ and mothers’ leave-taking. The
number of parental leave weeks taken by the father and the mother in the first
two years of the child’s life is analyzed using administrative register data
for 29,366 couples having their first child in 2009. Multi-level cross-classified
models with each couple nested in 112 father and 111 mother occupations are
used to estimate effects of conditions of work that have been hypothesized to
hinder fathers’ leave-taking. Career costs, job insecurity and flexibility
explained little variation in father leave. The strongest predictor was the
father’s occupational skill level, i.e., the higher the skill level required
for the occupation, the more leave fathers take. As would be expected from
gendered norms and behavior and resulting gendered assumptions of care at the
workplace, some of the conditions of work favorable for mothers’ leave-taking
are not transferrable to fathers.
Swedish Research Council through the Linnaeus Center for Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe (grant 349-2007-8701) and the Swedish Initiative for Research on Microdata in the Social and Medical Sciences (SIMSAM): Stockholm University SIMSAM Node for Demographic Research (grant 340-2013-5164).