Involved fathers mean happier kids: Case closed | Women's Agenda

Involved fathers mean happier kids: Case closed

We know it doesn’t happen in Australia. Now a UN sponsored report is telling us it doesn’t happen anywhere in the world either.

There’s no country on earth where boys and men share domestic and child caring work equally with girls and women, according to the State of the World’s Fathers report, launched by Chelsea Clinton overnight.

And that’s not because women are out of the workforce and have nothing better to do. Women now make up 40% of the global workforce and 50% of the globe’s food producers.

The Mencare report, analysing more than 700 global studies, finds major inequalities still exist between male and female parents, with women spending between 2 and 10 times longer caring for children than men. Even across OECD nations, women were found to undertake domestic duties at twice the rate of men.

In Australia, it quotes a 2006 study to show men spend 93 minutes on routine housework, compared with 168 minutes for women, and 27 minutes caring for household members, compared with 64 minutes for women.

It reported that Australian women with no children earn slightly more than men, but men earn almost 20% more when at least one child is in the mix. Across the world, earning potential is not great for women in their 30s – with 88% in the age bracket seeing their earning dip after having a child.

Meanwhile, just 23 of the world’s 500 largest corporations have a female CEO. That’s just 4.6%.

We’ve got a long way to go for gender equality.

As UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka writes in a foreword in the report, achieving such equality requires a reconfiguration of power relations – starting with who does what at home.

That includes redefining our deeply-ingrained perceptions of masculinity and fatherhood,” she writes “Fathers can help break the cycle of violence and discrimination against women by modeling non-violent behaviours and instilling values of equality, respect for diversity, empathy, and human rights for the next generation.

And it’s not all for the benefit of women and children. Rather, the report authors stress more paternal involvement will reap major benefits for everyone.

Here’s what happens when men take on more caring responsibilities, according to a large number of research studies cited throughout the report:

  1. Children have better cognitive development and social achievement
  2. Mental health rates improve in boys and girls
  3. Children develop higher empathy skills
  4. Men access a known source of wellbeing and happiness
  5. Men are less likely to abuse drugs and suffer from mental and physical health problems
  6. Men are more productive at work
  7. Men are provided more choices over their life and work
  8. Women are empowered to do more work outside of the house
  9. Women can improve their health and education
  10. Women are better positioned to take on leadership roles
  11. Gender equitable behaviours are modeled to the next generation of boys and girls
  12. The world has a better chance of reaching achieving gender equality goals
  13. These are pretty good results. So how can countries all over the world achieve a more gender equitable split in parenting and caregiving?

The report recommends the following:

  1. Create national and international plans promoting involves and non-violent fatherhood and participation in domestic duties
  2. Apply such plans to public systems and institutions that help promote men’s parenting and caregiving
  3. Offer equal and non-transferrable access to paid parental leave, as well as other policies that promote women’s workforce participation
  4. Gather more data on men’s parenting participation to offer new evidence and ideas for policies that promote equality in unpaid work
  5. Appreciate and support the diversity of men’s caregiving – by acknowledging diverse family arrangements including single parents, gay fathers, adolescent father etc.

Dads, it’s time to step up. And it’s time for everybody else to give them the permission, time, resources and policies to do so.

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