Gay dads are offered far less parental leave than heterosexual parents, according to new research published in the Journal of Social Policy. A team of researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that, on average, straight parents get five months more parental leave than male same-sex parents. As a result, households led by gay fathers often struggle more than straight couples to make ends meet.
The team examined paternity laws in 33 of the 36 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Gay male parents get an equal amount of parental leave in just 12 percent of those countries, while lesbians are also at a disadvantage. Employers provide equal parental leave to women-led households in just 60 percent of the countries examined.
On average, same-sex couples could expect between zero and 104 weeks of paid leave, with straight parents getting seven to 178 weeks. Time off varies widely from country to country, even within provinces and individual towns. Parental leave is usually more limited in the United States, where leave new parents are expected to return to work after an average of 10 weeks.
In many countries, researchers found that parental leave laws don’t refer to same-sex couples at all. Only Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Sweden have equality across genders in their parental leave legislation.
The study did not examine trans or nonbinary parents.
This new data comes on the heels of a report from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center, which found that six months of paid parental leave correlated with an increase in the number of people employed, without having an impact on economic growth.
According to The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, paid leave is associated with less government spending on public assistance.
“A lot of the differences in leave stem from gender stereotypes where women are the primary caregivers,” lead author Elizabeth Wong said in a statement to Reuters. “That not only affects heterosexual couples, it greatly disadvantages same-sex male couples.”
But gender stereotypes aren’t the only obstacle to equality. Marriage equality is legal in just under 30 countries worldwide, with about 70 countries imposing criminal penalties for homosexuality. In those environments, same-sex parents don’t just face unequal treatment — they could be punished by the government for even existing.