16 December 2021

The effect of earmarked parental leave must be researched


The Carlsberg Foundation has granted Jakob Egholt Søgaard, assistant professor at the Department of Economics, 4.5 million DKK for a project that will expand our understanding of the interplay between gender norms and parental leave. The goal is for politicians to be better equipped to decide the maternity laws of the future.

Father and newborn. Photo: Jill Sauve, Unsplash
Father and newborn. Photo: Jill Sauve, Unsplash

Despite significant advances on the gender equality front in recent decades, women still earn significantly less than men.

Research has shown that children are a key cause of the remaining gender pay gap. Children have major negative and lasting effects on women's careers while men go free.

This inequality underlies a new EU directive that requires all member states to implement at least nine weeks of earmarked leave before August 2022. In Denmark, a majority in the Danish Parliament went a little further in October, when the government's proposal for 11 weeks of earmarked maternity leave for each parent was passed.

Can politics change people's preferences?

But will the earmarked parental leave then have the desired effect on gender equality? This is one of the questions that Jakob Egholt Søgaard has received 4.5 million DKK of the Carlsberg Foundation to clarify.

"The project must expand our understanding of maternity preferences and provide valuable information to policy makers before they have to formulate the maternity policy of the future," explains Jakob Egholt Søgaard.

However, there is also a larger and more general aim of the project: Based on the maternity conditions, Jakob Egholt Søgaard will investigate whether people only react to the changes in incentives, while people's preferences are stable. With few exceptions, it is common in economics to give political advice based on that assumption.

“But if it is actually the case that preferences - e.g. when it comes to the distribution of maternity leave – is formed by social norms and can be moved through political changes, then our current, narrow focus on economic incentives can potentially be very misleading,” emphasizes Jakob Egholt Søgaard.

The project will thus take the first steps to develop a framework for normative analyzes of policy decisions that shape preferences.

Jakob Egholt Søgaard will work on the project from 2022 to 2026. You can follow his work on the project page here


Jakob Egholt Søgaard
Assistant professor, Tenure track
Department of Economics
Phone: +45 35 32 65 41
Mail: jes@econ.ku

Simon Knokgaard Halskov
Communication consultant
Phone: +45 93 56 53 29
Mail: sih@samf.ku.dk


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