joan burton

New legislation in Ireland will require fathers’ names be put on birth certificates – a move that some applaud and others still feel is not enough to ensure fathers’ rights.

In other recent news, there is still no plan for paid paternity leave for Irish dads.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was the one who suggested the amendment to Ireland’s Civil Registration Act 2004. Currently, when parents of a newborn are unmarried, a father is not required to submit his name for the birth certificate. Or, in other cases – the mother is not required to submit the father’s name and information. Burton’s amendment – the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2013 – will make, aside from extreme circumstances, the father’s name a required field.

But Eamonn Quinn, a member of the group Unmarried and Separated Parents of Ireland (warning, 90’s internet alert on that site), told The Belfast Telegraph that the amendments still won’t guarantee “a father automatic rights”. The Belfast Telegraph reported that in 2012, 25,344 children “were born to women who were not married nor shared a home with the father.” In the eyes of the Irish law, these fathers still have no legal rights. And it shows.

Burton’s name is all over Ireland’s fatherhood news; in late June, she said that the Government has no plan to introduce paid paternity leave for Irish dads. In June 26th’s Dáil Debates, Burton stated:

The introduction of paid parental leave or paternity leave would have significant cost implications for employers, the Exchequer and the social insurance fund. In addition, the question of introducing a paternity benefit payment would depend on establishing an underlying entitlement to statutory paternity leave in the first instance and in the case of paternity leave would require legislation on the part of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Currently, fathers can take advantage of the parental leave laws. This allows fathers “who qualify to take a period of up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave from employment, generally in respect of children aged up to eight years.”

The cost to Ireland and its employers would be sizable; The Journal estimates employers would pay out €56.6 million in “lost hours of work.”

A recent European Social Survey (ESS) might shed some light on why a paid paternity leave in Ireland (and elsewhere) might be important: the ESS found that women are still shouldering most of the household chores, even when they’ve got a full-time job.

Now, those studies aren’t perfect; many don’t count household tasks/chores that men typically do like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.

But regardless of that, here’s where it gets interesting: the ESS report states that Swedish women have the most helpful partners. Swedish men are typically handling one third of the household chores, and if their wives reported having a job clocking over 30 hours per week, men shouldered more of the chores. Why’s this important for a place like Ireland? Here’s why:

Swedish dads are allowed 480 days (DAYS!) of paid paternity leave.

No wonder they’re more helpful around the house.

In fact, the ESS survey reported that all of the Nordic countries saw a more even distribution of the household chores. And if you noticed, most of the Nordic countries – Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway – are in the top 10 for paid paternity leave. Iceland doesn’t appear on the graph linked above, but has an evidently successful system in place.

And that is why countries lagging behind in paid paternity leave such as Ireland (and the United States) need to pay attention to surveys such as the one from the ESS.

For fathers in Ireland, there is still no equality, but times are slowly changing.