Sharing Parental Leave Among Dual-Earner Couples in Canada: Does Reserved Paternity Leave Make a Difference?

  • Molly Mayer
  • Céline Le BourdaisEmail author
Original Research


In 2006, Quebec became the first Canadian province to offer non-transferable paternity leave to fathers. The availability of this five-week leave distinguishes the province from the rest of the country, where only maternity and parental leave are available. Using data from Statistics Canada’s 2011 General Social Survey, the authors investigate to what extent the availability of reserved paternity leave and couples’ conjugal union type affect the probability of fathers taking leave and the duration of leave. Among couples in which at least one parent took leave, descriptive analysis shows that 75% of Quebec fathers took leave, whereas only 50% of fathers elsewhere in Canada took leave. Both parents received wage replacement benefits in nearly 60% of cases in Quebec, but in only 8% of cases in other provinces. Multivariate analysis confirms that the availability of paternity leave is positively linked to the higher likelihood of Quebec fathers taking leave compared to fathers in other provinces. However, paternity leave is negatively associated with fathers’ duration of leave, as well as that of mothers. Married fathers were more likely than cohabiting fathers to take parental leave in provinces outside Quebec, but not in Quebec. Among other variables, we find that education levels of mothers, gender-role attitudes (approached through sharing of housework), number of children, and family type significantly affect the likelihood of fathers taking leave. Duration of leave appears more closely associated with differences between partners in terms of age and income for mothers, and of education for both parents.


Parental leave Paternity leave Maternity leave Parental benefits Family policy Gender equality Canada 



The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful and insightful comments. Work on this article received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the McGill Canada Research Chair on Social Statistics and Family Change. The analysis was conducted at the McGill Branch of the Quebec Interuniversity Centre for Social Statistics (QICSS) which is part of the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN). The services and activities provided by the QICSS are made possible by the financial or in-kind support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Statistics Canada, the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Société et culture (FRQSC) and Santé (FRQS), and the Quebec universities. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Policy and InterventionUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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