More fathers 'should care for children'
Almost one in five fathers in Austria claim childcare allowance, according to a study from the Ministry of Social Affairs, but ministers want to encourage more men to take an active role in their child's care.
Social Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer and Women's Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek (both SPÖ) opened a two-day men's conference in Vienna on Monday by calling for more men to participate in childcare.
The conference will look at questions of gender equality and how to balance work and family life. The aim is that "for men the words paternity leave and ‘papa month’ are no longer foreign words,” Hundstorfer said.
Male public service employees in Austria are entitled to take a month off work to spend time with their newborn, which doesn’t count as annual leave.
Hundstorfer added that fathers taking paternity leave came from all sorts of employment and had varying levels of education. “We just want to spread the message that men needn’t be afraid of taking paternity leave,” he said.
In 2012 a total of 14,441 men (or 16.7 percent) received a childcare allowance, compared to 71,932 women (83.3 percent). Heinisch-Hosek is keen that the number of men should increase in the next few years.
Hundstorfer wants the private sector to introduce a ‘papa month’ by 2016, and is keen that all young fathers should be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
Germany’s Parliamentary State Secretary for Family Affairs, Elke Ferner, is taking part in the conference and reporting on the success of Germany’s introduction of a statutory right to a childcare place. Heinisch-Hosek is keen that this should happen in Austria in the next few years.
Photo: Gymboree Vienna
Austria generally has excellent childcare options. In addition to the state-subsidized choices, a private childcare company called Gymboree offers parents in Vienna the chance to spend more time with their young children in a specially-tailored environment.
In Austria both parents are entitled to parental leave until the child reaches the age of 24 months, and provided the parent taking leave lives in the same household as the child.
A parent taking parental leave can claim a childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld).