Who’s the fairest of them all?

A new research study commissioned by the Fatherhood Institute, a think-tank, has compared and ranked 21 countries in a new fairness in families index.

The ranking is based on data drawn from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and verified by an international panel. Factors taken into account include the proportion of women in management, how many men work part time, paternity leave and the gap in median earnings between men and women. More subjective indicators such as the time spent by men in caring for their children or doing housework were also factored in.

Sweden heads the table. The country offers men 40 weeks’ full-time equivalent paternity leave compared with the UK’s two-day equivalent. In Belgium, the gap in median earnings between men and women is just 9.3 per cent, says the report, compared with the UK’s 21 per cent.

The UK comes fourth from the bottom of the list. Only Japan, Austria and Switzerland are characterised as less “family-friendly”. According to Rob Williams, chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute:

“The fairness in families index gives a benchmark for where Britain stands in terms of how far policies allow families to share parenting and be more ‘equal’.”

The report is published just as the Cranfield University School of Management’s Female FTSE board report stirs media debate on factors preventing more women reaching the top in quoted companies. Clearly for many women one factor is the degree of support they have from spouses in managing home and children as they build their careers.

A Conservative election pledge was to make Britain “the most family-friendly country in Europe”.

Whether the coalition government does this by extending paternity leave, closing the gap in earnings between men and women or instituting more flexible working practices, moves to make the UK more family-friendly are likely to benefit women’s participation in management - and help men become more involved in bringing up the kids.

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