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By Nina Ford
Originally posted on Girls’ Globe

At current rates of progress, it will take an estimated 75 years  – or more – for women and men to achieve equal pay for equal work around the world. Achieving equal representation in government, business, and other spheres of power could take even longer.

This inequality in the workplace is inextricably connected to women’s unequal burden of unpaid work at home. Around the world, women consistently do more unpaid care work – including caring for others and domestic work – than men do.

The average time women spend each day on caring for the home and children is still three times what men spend, ranging from about 2.7 times in East Asia and the Pacific to 6.5 times in South Asia.

Women are not just doing more unpaid work than men are; they are doing more work – unpaid and paid – combined. Even where men are contributing more than they used to, men’s contribution to housework and childcare has increased only an average of 6 hours per week over 40 years across 20 countries.

These are some of the key findings from State of the World’s Fathers: Time for Action, a publication of MenCare: A Global Fatherhood Campaign, which Equimundo launched on 9 June – just ahead of Father’s Day in many countries. The report draws from nearly 100 research studies and reports, with data from nearly every country where it is available. It calls for a global goal and national action plans to achieve men and boys doing 50% of the unpaid care work globally.

The report reveals that barriers to a gender-equitable distribution of care include gender norms that stereotype caregiving as ‘women’s work’, economic and workplace realities like the gender wage gap and stigma around taking leave, and laws and policies that reinforce the link between men and paid work and women and unpaid care.

How can we break down these barriers and bring men on board with doing 50% of the world’s unpaid care?

  1. Offer equal, paid, non-transferable parental leave.Providing equal, non-transferable, and fully paid parental leave for both men and women sets the standard and builds an understanding that childcare is the responsibility of all parents, regardless of gender. Such policies can work to put an end to the norm that men should be family breadwinners and women should be caregivers. Parental leave should be supported by other measures, such as access to income support – including poverty alleviation and affordable, high-quality childcare.
  2. Show children that everyone has the responsibility and opportunity to care.From the earliest ages, children learn and internalize ideas about gender and caregiving.  When boys see their fathers engaged in caregiving or when they are taught to care for their siblings, they are more likely to continue this pattern of care as adults. Similarly, when girls see their fathers participating equally in housework, they are more likely to aspire to work in less traditional occupations outside the home. Homes – as well as schools – can be spaces where children to learn the value of care.
  3. Teach fathers to transform stereotypes about care and to be hands-on. Men need to feel capable of – and responsible for – taking on unpaid care work in order to achieve a gender-equitable distribution of care. Evidence-based parent-training programs and educational campaigns for men, like Program P, can help fathers challenge rigid norms, learn gender-equitable parenting, and build their caregiving skills.
  4. Recruit more men into caregiving and other health, education, administration, and literacy (HEAL) professions.In addition to bringing more women into science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) professions, more men need to be brought into jobs that focus on care. Engaging more men in the HEAL professions could accelerate social shifts toward greater acceptance of caregiving qualities in all people; however, this shift must take into consideration local realities, and accompany a push for equal living wages for women and men alike.
  5. Get men involved early on in their children’s lives: through the health sector.Health institutions and providers may resist the idea of engaging fathers in maternal, newborn, and child health, despite evidence showing that when fathers are present from the beginning their children’s lives, they are more likely to remain involved later on. Governments should increase training for those in the health sector on the importance of engaging men as supportive, equitable partners and parents. Practical changes to health facilities and practices – like providing after-work doctor’s appointments and private areas for labor and delivery – can also help make them more inclusive of men.

Explore these and other recommendations for action in State of the World’s Fathers: Time for Action, and join the conversation of social media using #WorldsFathers.

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