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'Beautiful progress': France doubles paternity leave to 28 days

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French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to a Mother and Child Protection Centre on  Sept. 23, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to a Mother and Child Protection Centre on Sept. 23, 2020.   -   Copyright  Ludovic Marin/POOL via AP
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Paternity leave in France is to double to a month with seven days mandatory, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday.

Macron described the measure, which will become effective in July 2021, as "an important decision" and "beautiful progress" in a video posted on Instagram.

He added that "it is first and foremost a measure promoting equality between women and men" because it will lead to "greater equality in the sharing of chores from the very first days" of the child's life.

The announcement comes two weeks after a commission examining how to improve children's "first 1,000 days" recommended an extension of paternity leave although it falls far short of the nine weeks championed by the report.

It will be financed by France's social security system and is expected to cost €500 million annually.

'Lacking in scientific objectivity'

France introduced a 14-day paternity leave in 2002. At the time it was among the most generous in Europe but it has since been surpassed by a majority of EU countries, with the Nordic ones among the most generous.

Currently, seven out of 10 French fathers take this optional leave although those in long-term employment are much more likely to do so that those in more unstable work situations.

The CGT union welcomed the announcement as "a first step", but demanded that it be made compulsory in its entirety.

"Indeed, if it is not, the majority of employees and, in particular, the most precarious will not ask for it for fear of the consequences it would have on their jobs," it stressed in a statement.

Parliamentarian Guillaume Chiche, whose draft bill to extend paternity leave to 12 weeks of which eight would be made mandatory, is to be examined next week, told Euronews that while the measure is "positive", it "lacks a little scientific objectivity".

The government, he said, should go much further, and bring paternity leave to a similar length as that of mothers, who have to take 10 weeks off by law, in order for mothers to be truly supported by their partners following the birth of a child.

"If the compulsory legal duration of the paternity leave is limited to seven days, we do not in any way reduce inequalities, particularly in employment and in the sharing of household tasks," he added.