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Gender equality is good for everyone, argues Alexander De Croo

07:09 09/09/2018

More paternity leave and cheaper child care are two ways to achieve a more equal society, according to a new book by Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), a deputy prime minister of Belgium. The Flemish politician intends to propose both initiatives for adoption by a future federal government.

De Croo’s book is called De eeuw van de vrouw: Hoe feminisme ook mannen bevrijdt (The Century of the Woman: How Feminism Also Frees Men). In it he looks at inequalities between men and women in Belgian society, such as the gender pay gap and the fact that many more women than men work part time.

He then goes on to scrutinise the policies that lock in ideas about gender roles. This includes parental leave, which amounts to 15 weeks for mothers but just 10 days for fathers.

The solution, he suggests, is for the government to increase paternity leave and child-care subsidies for working parents. This would put men and women on an equal footing, and encourage women to resume their careers, if they choose to, while raising children.

Such changes should not put a dent in the national budget, he argues. “More gender equality brings more prosperity, and with that you can fund more paternity leave and cheaper child care,” he said in an interview with De Standaard.

De Croo also admitted that as a family man – he has two sons – he was not setting a good example. He works full time while his wife works part time, and his cabinet comprises more men than women. All three of his chiefs of staff are men. “It’s a long-term process for everyone,” he protested.

Meanwhile De Morgen took him to task for not proposing his changes during the present administration. “I have evolved,” he told the paper, “and I have taken the time to do my homework.”

Photo: Federal minister Alexander De Croo presents his book at a press conference on Thursday ©Dirk Waem/BELGA

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)