- By Park MacDougaldPark MacDougald is an assistant editor at Foreign Affairs.
What it means for a country to be good for fathers, of course, differs across time and cultures. But, as we noted last year on Mother’s Day, some countries simply prioritize parenting more than others.
When it comes to family-friendly government policies, for instance, there’s Scandinavia and then there’s the rest of the world. Many of the countries offering the most generous paid paternity leave are Scandinavian, and Norway in particular emerges as arguably the best place in the world to be a father.
Norway is a perennial favorite in best-country lists — most recently topping the United Nations’ Human Development Index — and it’s just as formidable when it comes to fatherhood. Famous for generous parental leave for both sexes – either 46 weeks off at full pay or 56 weeks off at 80 percent of salary (to be divided up between the two parents) — Norway ensures that new fathers take advantage of the opportunity with its policy of pappapermisjon – a 10-week period of leave reserved exclusively for men. Combine this with two weeks of paid paternity leave carved out for immediately after childbirth, and dads in Norway can look forward to 12 weeks off to spend with their new baby. Ninety percent of Norwegian fathers are now participating in the program, compared with the two to three percent of fathers who were taking parental leave back in the early 1990s, when Norway established its pappapermisjon policy.
Another northern European overachiever is Iceland. Although paid leave policies took a bit of a hit following Iceland’s 2008 banking crisis, the country’s parliament has since striven to restore what was originally one of the most generous systems in the world. While current Icelandic law provides nine months of paid leave with a 3-3-3 split (three months for mothers, three for fathers, and three to split between parents), by 2016 Iceland will have adopted a 12-month, 5-5-2 system, in which fathers receive five months of paid parental leave, plus an additional two month to be split as the couple sees fit.
If you’re searching for that elusive combination of good family policies and stellar Father’s Day traditions, it’s hard to beat Germany. Like its neighbors to the north, the Father-Friendly Land is no slouch when it comes to parental leave. The government offers 12 months of leave, paid at 67 percent of a parent’s salary, to be split between a couple. While there is no leave exclusively reserved for the father, families receive an additional two months of paid leave if the father also takes at least two months off.
But while giving fathers a chance to bond with their newborn babies is nice and all, what really makes Germany great for fathers is the Father’s Day party.
Vatertag (also known as Männertag) is celebrated every year on Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter. Originally a religious festival, today Father’s Day is a booze-soaked celebration of everything manly. German men of all ages spend the day hiking through town and country pulling large wagons (Bollerwagen) filled with beer or wine (depending on the region), and consuming their precious cargo in large quantities. Der Spiegel warns that people in Germany on Father’s Day should expect "grown men slumped against lampposts, or lolling dazed and confused in wooden carts, clutching barrels of beer."
So, who’s moving to Germany?