Singapore law mandates two weeks of paternity leave. But nine Swedish companies here have voluntarily doubled paternity leave to four weeks. It is impressive that the companies have committed to offering fathers more time off to connect with their newborns. While these are steps forward in the journey towards gender equality in parenthood, there is always more that can be done. Structural inequality is evident when paternity leave is compared with the 16 weeks of maternity leave. This difference reflects the social assumption that mothers are still the primary caregivers. But men play a key role in the pursuit of gender equality too.
Parenting is one critical step in building gender equality. A local study by the National University of Singapore found that fathers who take paternity leave have a positive impact on both their children as well as their spouses. Their children are significantly less likely to have behavioural issues and their wives are happier and less likely to suffer from maternal depression.