SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Germany Measures Benefits Of Parental Leave For Fathers

Fathers who took parental leave spend an hour and a half more with their children every day during the first few years of their life compared to fathers who work continuously.

Fathers who take a break after their children's birth spend more time with them after going back to work
Fathers who take a break after their children's birth spend more time with them after going back to work
Julian Erbersdobler

MUNICH — German economist Marcus Tamm has looked into the effects of parental leave. His findings: Fathers who take a break after their children's birth spend more time with them after going back to work.

Is the role of fathers who go on parental leave changing? Do you spend more time with the child in the years that follow? Or are two months too short to change that? Tamm has looked into these questions in a recent study by the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Essen. The results surprised the economist by the degree of difference.

father_baby_germany_study_storytime

Parental leave is important for the future relationship between baby and father — Photo: Shari Murphy

According to his study, fathers who went on parental leave spend about one and a half hours more with their children every day during the first six years of the child's life than fathers who don't take the break. The change is also noticeable in the household: fathers who took parental leave and parental allowance did an hour more housework every day.

"We were able to work out the effect and results of the parental allowance," says Tamm, who has been doing research on the topic for more than 10 years. The parental allowance introduced in Germany in 2007 encourages fathers to take parental leave. The longest option, of more than 14 months only exists if both partners take parental leave. A single parent can receive full parental benefit for a maximum of 12 months. Although a different distribution is possible, in practice this often results in women taking twelve months and fathers two months. The two months on average taken by fathers often are then also used to take the whole family on a long vacation.

The positive effects apply even if the father only takes a short leave.

The positive effects that Tamm has noticed apply even if the father only takes parental leave for a short time. In his study, he compares the behavior of men who became fathers both before and after the parental allowance was introduced in 2007.

The evaluation is based on data from the socio-economic panel. This data is collected annually from some 11,000 households and a total of more than 30,000 people in Germany. The parental leave study used data from the years 2000 to 2015. Nowadays, about one in three fathers in Germany choses to exercise his right to parental leave. When it was first introduced in 2007, it was only three percent.

Above all, Tamm has been surprised by one aspect: "I did not expect parental leave to have such an impact on the second, third or fourth year of the child." In Scandinavia, paternal leave was introduced earlier than in Germany. Researchers there came to different results, according to Tamm: Some studies could have found a behavioral change of the fathers, others not.

But even with the German study, there are questions that remain unanswered, because of lack of effective measurements. "We can not say anything about the quality of the time spent, so we do not know if the father plays with the child or just takes care of it."

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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