In Italy, Paternity Leave Has More Than Tripled

Health - June 5, 2024

Those who Live in the North and Have a Higher Income Benefit More From It

Paternity leave in Italy has evolved enormously in recent years, tripling its percentage of use from 2013 to 2022. However, behind this increase, a clear gender imbalance in child care persists, as highlighted by a study conducted by Save the Children. In 2013, fewer than one in five fathers took advantage of this benefit, while in 2022 more than three in five fathers did so.

The introduction of paternity leave in 2012 was a turning point. From just one compulsory and two optional days, we have moved on to a leave of 10 compulsory days and one optional for new fathers, which can be used between the two months before and five months after giving birth. This extension of the period of abstention from work has clearly incentivized greater use of leave by fathers. Despite the increase in usage across Italy, there are significant disparities between regions. The Northern provinces record much higher usage rates than the South. For example, provinces such as Bergamo, Lecco, Treviso, Vicenza and Pordenone have usage rates above 80%, while in some Southern provinces such as Crotone, Trapani, Agrigento and Vibo Valentia the percentage is less than 30%.

The demographic analysis shows that it is mainly men between 30 and 49 who take paternity leave, with a percentage of use that fluctuates around 65%. Furthermore, it emerges that leave is requested mainly by those who work in medium-large companies and with permanent contracts. Companies with over 100 employees have a paternity leave use rate of 77%, while in companies with 15 or fewer employees this percentage drops to 45.2%. However, it is interesting to note that it is precisely in these small companies that there was the greatest increase in the use of paternity leave between 2021 and 2022, with an increase of 8.7%.

A significant difference emerges in the use of leave based on the type of employment contract. Employees with permanent contracts, in fact, are much more likely to request paternity leave, with a percentage of use approaching 70%. In contrast, those who have a fixed-term contract or are seasonal employees use leave significantly less. These data highlight the importance of promoting policies that encourage greater participation of fathers in child care. A fair distribution of parenting tasks not only promotes gender equality, but also contributes to the well-being of children and the building of a more equal and inclusive society.

Furthermore, it should be emphasized that paternity leave is not only a benefit for fathers, but also for mothers and the family as a whole. The active presence of fathers during the first days and weeks of a baby’s life can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the mother, reducing the risk of postpartum depression and improving family bonding. At the same time, paternity leave can help reduce gender stereotypes related to parental roles and promote a more flexible and inclusive work culture. When fathers take an active part in caring for their children, traditional patterns that relegate women to the role of primary caregivers and men to that of the family’s main financial providers are broken.

However, despite the progress made, challenges remain to ensure equitable access to paternity leave for all workers. In particular, it is important to adopt policies that support workers with precarious or seasonal contracts, guaranteeing them the same rights and opportunities as those with permanent contracts. Furthermore, it is essential to raise awareness among both employers and workers of the importance of paternity leave and how to use it effectively. This may include promoting company policies that facilitate the use of leave, such as flexible working hours or the ability to work from home during the leave period.