Our Perspectives

Toward a proposal for shared parenthood


woman plays with childWomen still provide most housework and family care in Latin America and the Carribbean. (Photo: Mauricio Martínez/UNDP El Salvador)

In the past decade in Latin America and the Caribbean, around 22.8 million women joined the labour market. This advancement has contributed to a labour force today with more than 100 million women.

Nevertheless, their labour-force contribution in urban areas (52.6 percent) is still lower than that of men (79.6 percent), and women are still working in low-quality jobs, with negative consequences on their income level and their potential for development. Housework and family care that women still fundamentally provide help explain this.

Two main principles underlie the resistance to re-organizing the time men and women dedicate to working in the market and in households. First, men are strongly identified with paid work and women with reproductive work. Second, due to the traditional organization of productive work, there are obstacles to men’s greater commitment to caretaking.

Labour laws in the region were established for male workers in an industrial sector working full-time and who are responsible for the family’s financial support; they do not indicate conciliation provisions because they do not consider men responsible for housework and caretaking.

The main advancement in labour legislation in the region promoting shared caretaking has been the recognition of the father's right to participate in caring for newborns through paternity leave. But whereas the duration of maternity leave is 12 to 13 weeks in most countries of the region, paternity leave is only two to five days on average.

Also, men are not entitled to paternal rights, and in most cases, have restricted access to care services in the workplace because it is designed exclusively for women. There are few laws that consider leave in case the worker’s children or other immediate family members are ill.

Thus, in Latin America and the Caribbean, institutional reform is required to accompany the changes occurring in work and family life, and to facilitate and promote greater participation of men in housework and caretaking.

To this end, it is necessary to change the way regulatory frameworks on maternity protection and support for workers with family responsibilities are conceived, and to incorporate the concept of parenthood – i.e., both members of a couple should share caregiving equally. This involves extending to workers the guarantees of caretaking that are not exclusively linked to the biological, reproductive role of women.

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