Paid parental leave policies for single-parent households: An examination of legislative approaches in 34 OECD countries

Judy Jou*, Elizabeth Wong, Daniel Franken, Amy Raub, Jody Heymann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Many studies have examined the availability of paid parental leave for the general population, but few have looked specifically at whether leave policies meet the needs of single parents. Across OECD countries, 17% of children on average live in single-parent households. Depending on policy framing, parental leave benefits may not meet the needs of parents and children in single-parent families. This study provides the first comprehensive examination of paid parental leave policies in 34 OECD member countries as they pertain to single-mother and single-father households. Using original legislation and administrative sources, we created a new database to examine the total duration of paid leave available to parents in single- and two-parent households after the birth or adoption of a child. Our findings indicate that single mothers receive shorter durations of paid leave compared to two-parent families in 22 countries after the birth of a child; for fathers, this number rises to 29. Single adoptive mothers and fathers receive shorter durations of leave than two-parent households in 17 countries each. We discuss the potential origins of these discrepancies and policy approaches to providing single parents with adequate paid leave while continuing to incentivize dual uptake in two-parent households.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-200
Number of pages17
JournalCommunity, Work & Family
Issue number2
Early online date14-Sept-2018
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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