Parental leave: France behind in its childcare policy, according to Unicef

Parental leave: France behind in its childcare policy, according to Unicef

France comes in 19th position, far behind the top three made up of Luxembourg, Iceland and Sweden, in a report from the UN agency.

A father and his baby in Charenton-le-Pont (Val-de-Marne), April 13, 2021. (CAMILLE CIER / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

Can do better. A report by Unicef ​​on childcare policies in rich countries, published Friday, June 18, ranks France in 19th position, in particular because of its management of parental leave. The UN agency in charge of child welfare has screened 41 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) classified according to criteria of access, price and quality of childcare, and access to childbirth leave.

Luxembourg, Iceland and Sweden are the nations that offer the best policies in this area, according to Unicef. These three countries combine “Accessibility, reasonable prices and quality of childcare services” and “Offer generous parental leave to both parents to allow them a real choice of their type of childcare”, specifies the report.

Paternal leave still little taken

“The leaves available to mothers in France remain too short (basic leave of 18 weeks at full pay, if we take into account pathological leave) with regard to the needs of the child and in comparison with the other countries of the country. ‘OECD ”, explains Unicef. “In addition, if maternity and paternity leave are relatively well paid, the low compensation for parental education leave and the existence of cultural and professional obstacles make it unattractive.”

Less than half of rich countries offer at least 32 weeks of full-pay leave to mothers, the report said. When paternal leave is offered – always much shorter – few fathers take it, in particular because of professional and cultural obstacles.

The three countries at the bottom of the ranking, Cyprus, the United States and Slovakia, stand out for “The low level of their investments in leave and childcare”. In a press release, Unicef ​​encourages States to think about “Paid parental leave of at least six months” and to “Universal access to quality and affordable childcare, from birth to the start of the first year of school”.