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Cover Introducing Political Philosophy

8. Parental Leave and Gender Equality  

William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton

This chapter defends the radical view that the state should legally require all parents to take a substantial period of parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Though extreme, this strikes the right balance between advancing gender equality and respecting other considerations relating to the family. The chapter begins by identifying the various ways in which the current distribution of paid employment and household work is gendered, showing how women and men tend to play different roles in these domains. It then explains how different kinds of parental leave schemes can challenge the gendered division of labour, criticizing those that are likely to reproduce the current pattern of paid employment and household work. The chapter argues for schemes that encourage a more equal division of labour between women and men. It also discusses the implications of the chapter’s conclusions for the design of parental leave schemes and for the broader landscape in which these policies are nested.