The limited increase in fathers’ involvement in childcare tasks in response to the unprecedented rise in female labour market participation illustrates the incomplete nature of the gender revolution. Available research provides evidence for micro-economic mechanisms and the influence of gender norms and social policy design on couples’ gendered divisions of parental leave, but knowledge on how national level contexts shape partners’ agency remains limited. Hence, comparative research from different national contexts is needed. This paper examines the association between fathers’ pre-birth income and workplace characteristics, and whether they take up parental leave after the birth of their first child in Belgium and Sweden by using detailed longitudinal register data from Sweden and Belgium. Results show that, whereas an opportunity cost logic seems to underlie fathers’ parental leave decisions in Belgium, gender equality in contributing to the household income yields the highest probability of fathers’ parental leave uptake in Sweden. Furthermore, in Sweden, fathers’ employment characteristics are more strongly associated with whether fathers’ take leave longer than the quota than whether fathers take any leave at all. The different mechanisms in Belgium and Sweden suggest that the design of leave policies and the broader normative and institutional national level context moderate couples’ parental leave uptake decisions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited