Spain’s Minister of Social Rights Ione Belarra announced on Wednesday that her department intends to extend parental leave for fathers and mothers to 24 weeks, equal to six months for each parent.
“This Ministry is going to fight for extending permits to six months and to extend child education from 0 to 3 years in the public network of infant schools,” Belarra said at a conference on Spain’s upcoming Family Diversity Law, which the six-month parental leave would form part of.
According to Belarra, who has taken over from Pablo Iglesias as the head of the hard-left party Unidas Podemos, the Spanish government has “unfinished business with the families of newborn babies”.
“I’m aware of how incredibly difficult it is for many families to find a balance between parenting and work, especially in the first years of their child’s life”, she said, and “how difficult it is for many mothers to leave four-month-old babies with other people to go back to their jobs”.
Spain increased its paternity leave for fathers to 16 weeks in January 2021, equalling the leave mothers get, both of which are remunerated at 100 percent of their regulatory base salary.
The country has also come a long way in terms of parental leave, as in 2006 new dads were still only given two days off to be with their newborns.
But according to Belarra (pictured below), the current amount of parental leave is still causing “difficulties” when raising babies, in the country with the second lowest birth rate in the EU.
(Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)
According to ministerial sources, the fact that a concrete amount of parental leave has been put forward as part of the Family Diversity draft law should facilitate negotiations with the socialist PSOE party that Unidas Podemos forms a government coalition with.
Belarra is also pushing for child benefits for parents as a means of encouraging couples who are not having children “for financial reasons” or because “they don’t have a suitable home or stable job”.
The child benefit should be available even to those who don’t make social security contributions, who as things stand can’t access government parenting aid, the Social Rights Minister added.
“This family diversity law goes to the root of the problem, to protect the material living conditions of families and to make it a little easier to raise kids.
“It cannot be that the fourth economy of the EU allocates almost one point less of its GDP to support their families than the average.
“In Spain, having children severely increases the risk of being poor,” the minister concluded.
A total of 22,182 fewer babies were born in Spain in 2020, with the latest fertility index showing that the average number of children per woman in the country is only 1.18.