Legislating motherhood: woman-friendly or woman-only parental leave and benefit policies?
This thesis is an investigation of the relationship between national ideological approaches to parental leave and benefit policies and the ability of women and men to combine paid labour and child care responsibilities equitably. The focus is on married, dual earner families with children. A cross-national secondary data analysis of gendered labour force experiences, parental leave and benefit policy documents and the gendered uptake rate of leaves are conceptualized within the framework of feminist welfare state theories that highlight barriers which maintain women's unequal position in society and across nations. Parental leave policy goals highlight the need to reduce negative effects of family and child care responsibilities on women in the work force and to promote an equitable, shared approach to work and family responsibilities for women and men. Policies have affected women as they are better able to balance work and family duties. Policies have had some influence on the assumption of child care responsibilities by men; however, this increase in men's leave taking behaviour has been modest in relation to the goal of shared leave taking in dual earner families. Unintended policy outcomes reinforce women's child care responsibilities and calls for future research on family friendly policies which are developed to encourage men's involvement in child care.