Maternity and paternity leave in the EU
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Maternity leave Europe


 - Maternity leave Europe
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An aging population and slowing birth rates.

While many argue that longer and paid maternity leave could encourage young women to have children, others say it is childcare that needs to be provided.

An overview gives a rather confusing picture and shows: It's probably the variety of measures supporting young families that could have an effect if any. Having a child remains a very emotional decision in the end.

26 weeks - at least 2 must be taken before and 4 weeks after confinement, 80 per cent earnings.

Mothers get 26 weeks maternity leave plus 14 weeks parental leave. Ireland has the highest fertility rate in the EU, despite the fact that child care is seen as under-developed and expensive.

Birth rate: 1.99

Nordic countries: Sweden & Norway
Each parent gets 18 months paid leave. Public day care is subsidized and flexible work schedules are common - women with children of pre-school age are entitled to reduce their working hours. Women's participation in the work force is high.

In Norway, mothers are entitled to 12 months off work with 80 per cent pay or 10 months with full pay. Fathers are entitled to take almost all of that leave instead of the mother. Fathers must take at least four weeks leave or else those weeks will be lost for both parents. The leave is financed through taxes, so employers don't lose out.

Birth rates per woman: Norway: 1.81, Sweden: 1.75

One year’s maternity leave, the first six weeks on 90 per cent pay, followed by 33 weeks on Statutory Maternity Pay of £123 a week. The rest of the year is unpaid.

Paternity leave is 2 weeks until April 2011, when new laws offer 26 weeks of partial and unpaid leave to be shared with the mother.

The government offers free early education places. Children from the age of four get free part-time places at nurseries - some three year olds also get places. Parents of children under the age of six have the right to ask their employers for more flexible working hours. Although employers don't have to agree with the request, they have to show they have considered it carefully.

Tax credits and childcare vouchers are also available to help fund child care and parenting.

Birth rate: 1.74
6 weeks prior and 8 weeks after confinement. The government offers additional paid leave of up to 36 months if certain conditions apply.

One of the biggest problems is a lack of child care places. According to government figures, only one in five children under three get a place in day care. Not only do they close at lunch time, but the fees are incredibly high. Another problem for working parents is that traditionally, the school day ends at 1pm.

Germany has long had one of the lowest birth rates in the European Union and one of the highest proportions of childless women. According to recent statistics, 30% of German women don't have children. Demographers say Germany's problem has probably been made worse because it has been ignored for so long.

Birth rate: 1.37

20 weeks at 100% pay, leave may commence 2 weeks before the expected date of birth. Women are paid a one-off payment of 1,000 zlotys (258 euros; £177) for each child they have. Women from poorer families will receive double that amount.

Birth rate: 1.78

16 weeks (6 before confinement and 10 after). Possibility to postpone the maternity leave prior to confinement after the child birth (for a maximum period of 3 weeks and upon medical advice).

France has employed various policies to try to reconcile family life with working women. It has some of the most extensive state-funded child care in Europe.
Child care facilities are subsidized by the government. Younger children are entitled to full-day childcare (crèches). For children aged two to three there are pre-school programs for which families pay on a sliding scale.

Birth rates: 1.9 - the second highest fertility rate in Europe.

Fully funded maternity leave of 16 weeks is transferable to partner, unpaid leave of three years is available. But only about one-third of Spanish mothers take up maternity benefits. Child care services vary from region to region, with some being shorter than the working day. Spain has one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe today but used to be among the highest.

Birth rate: 1.32

1 or 2 months before the presumed confinement date and 3 or 4 months (in case of one month of abstention before delivery) after (optionally 6 supplementary months).

Italy has long had a problem with declining birth rates. The problems include what is perceived to be a bias in the workplace to women who interrupt their careers to have children, the high fees charged by private nurseries and a chronic shortage of affordable housing for young people.

Birth rate: 1.33


Shila Meyer Behjat
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