The Evolution of Maternity and Paternity Leave Policies over Five Decades: A Global Analysis

This research analyzes the evolution of maternity and paternity leave across the world, covering 190 countries over 52 years. The data show striking differences both within and between countries in how leave distribution for parents upon the birth of a child has evolved. The study finds that, across all regions, there have been notable increases in the number of leave days a mother can take. The absolute increase in the number of leave days for mothers has been greatest in Europe and Central Asia, followed by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development high-income economies. However, apart from the high-income economies, the number of leave days allocated to fathers has increased by only a fraction of the amount for mothers. An analysis of the correlations between relative leave allocation and women’s labor market outcomes suggests that where the disparity in the allocation of leave days is greater, women’s participation in the labor market may be lower. However, the study finds no evidence of any association between the gender gap in leave allocation and other labor market outcomes, including the gender wage gap and women’s representation at the managerial level.