Caregiving and unpaid care work are at the heart of any discussion of the state of the world’s fathers, and at the heart of gender inequality. For all the attention paid to unpaid care work, however, in no country in the world do men’s contributions to unpaid care work equal women’s.
At the same time, looking back to the first State of the World’s Fathers report released in 2015, there are examples from around the world affirming that change is possible. Many men want to be more involved in the lives of their children. Even in countries where men’s involvement in care work is limited, recent research found that half or more of the men surveyed said that they spent too little time with their children due to their job.
In the United States, one survey found that 46 percent of fathers said they were not spending enough time with their children, compared with 23 percent of mothers. Recent data released in State of America’s Fathers showed that the majority of men and women alike, across all age categories, disagreed with the outdated notion that “it is best if men work and women take care of the home and children.”
This report affirms that change – from the individual to the policy level – is happening. Significant obstacles notwithstanding, evidence, experience, and insight affirm that radical, transformational change in the division of unpaid care is achievable at a global level. Social norms, policies, and practices can be changed to encourage men and boys to do more unpaid care. In interviews carried out around the world with dozens of men who had taken on traditionally female-dominated caregiving roles, researchers found that unexpected life circumstances – situations that presented no alternative but to adopt a radical new way of being – had provided the impetus for the men’s transformed attitudes and new household or professional roles. These men rose to a tremendous life challenge and emerged thriving in unexpected and more gender-equitable ways. Their experiences show that men and boys can be influenced to do their share of the care work; their stories do not come from an idealized, impossible world. The State of the World’s Fathers 2017 report, accordingly, urges mothers and fathers, caregivers of all kinds, communities of all sizes, and countries of all income levels to follow their lead.