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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - Parents' care and career: comparing parental leave policies

Summary

Introduction

The presence of young children in the household makes it necessary for working parents to find ways in which to combine professional responsibilities and care tasks. The externalisation of household chores to the market frees time for parents to spend on their caring duties. Furthermore, public childcare allows for a further externalisation of care tasks and as such is supportive of working parents, because it also secures time for both parents. As stated in chapter 2, a childcare system that meets several conditions (universal access, all-day coverage, high quality and affordability) facilitates an adequate division by parents of their time between childcare and work. However, given the high public cost of an affordable and universally accessible childcare system for children under 6 years of age, some countries have found an alternative in a parental leave system. The state's involvement in parental leave schemes may also be related to the way a country conceives children's early socialisation: through private external care, through public facilities or through parental care (Martin 2003). In many countries, parents are expected to be the primary caregivers when the child is very young (Math and Meilland 2004). Be that as it may, if home parental care is privileged in a given country, it does not necessarily mean that the state intervenes in the family sphere to secure parents' work resumption or substantial replacement of income.

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