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[Note: This article originally appeared on UNFPA Moldova's website. It is re-published here with their permission.]

On the eve of the International Day of Families, celebrated on 15 May every year, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a campaign to encourage fathers to be more involved in childcare activities. In this respect, UNFPA conducted an online discussion with the participation of the private sector and representatives of public institutions responsible for social policies that support families to harmoniously combine career and personal life.

The campaign is carried out under a Demographic Resilience regional programme that aims at supporting our country to cope with demographic changes, including the possibility to have the desired number of children. During the next months we will organize paternal leave promotion activities with the help of our partners - the National Social Insurance Office that will inform over 40 thousand mothers and fathers about taking on paternal leave; and Premier Energy Distribution that printed information about paternal leave on the back of the bills for the month of May, that will reach 900 thousand households.

‘Gender stereotypes often discourage men from engaging in household or children caregiving activities. And now in the pandemic, according to UNFPA research, women have been even more involved in these activities, in addition to work, a factor that contributes to the decrease in fertility. Women want 2 or 3 children, but the fertility rate in the country is currently 1.5 children per woman. Women are often forced to give up their career dreams to take on the role of the family caregiver. Thus, we need demographic policies to meet the needs of both men and women’, said Nigina Abaszada, UNFPA Moldova Resident Representative. 

UNFPA, in partnership with the Austrian Development Agency, supports the Government and the private sector to change social norms and to expand opportunities for families. 

Present at the event, Vasile Cusca, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, outlined the importance of allowances and social services provided for families, and also the need to combat stereotypes in the society, develop better social policies and take over the international best practices.

Currently, the national legislation offers to both parents the possibility to benefit from childcare leave up to 3 years; flexible work schedules, agreed with employers, and since 2016, fathers can benefit from paternal leave for 14 calendar days within the first 56 days after the birth of the child.

Whereas in 2015 only 5% of fathers received childcare allowances, in 2020 the share changed, it increased to 16%. Although it is a relatively new allowance – the one for paternal leave – it becomes more popular among fathers. From January this year, this allowance is available also for fathers who work in the field of justice and the self-employed, said Elena Tibirna, Director General at the National Social Insurance Office.

As in some countries, parents don’t have such opportunities and they cannot benefit from paid leave, the Swedish company Volvo Cars launched a social initiative that gives its 40 thousand employees worldwide the possibility to benefit from a six-month paid childcare leave at 80% of their salary. Both mother and father can take the leave. The only condition is for the person to be employed at least for a year in the company. Katarina Matson and Annette Praetorius from the Volvo Cars Corporation explained during the event what was the motivation of the company to launch this initiative. ‘We put employees at the centre of our operations and invest in products' efficiency and quality, attract talents and improve our brand. We know that customers choose brands that share their values, and our employees need a balance between work and family life’, they mentioned.

Some private companies in Moldova also saw the benefits of family-friendly workplace policies, offering the employees various opportunities, from flexible schedules, recreation rooms or breastfeeding rooms up to mortgage loans under more favourable conditions.

At Premier Energy Distribution, Friday is a short day to allow employees to spend more time with their families. ‘Employees are more efficient when they are satisfied. Strong and productive teams are built and business success increases’, thinks Iurie Haruta, Human Resources Director at Premier Energy Distribution.

‘We want to support our employees not only through remuneration but also through initiatives and benefits for families, especially those with three children and more. We have 50 employees with such families, which makes us believe that our conditions are beneficial for families’ said Elvira Neamtu, Human Resources Director at Orange Moldova.

Why opportunities offered to fathers are important in terms of them spending time with children, especially during the first period after birth? ‘Because the child feels that they can rely on the father, not only on the mother, and we manage to establish a more open relationship between parents and children, and it brings us even closer. During the pandemic, the company I work for offered us the possibility to work from home and my wife is even calmer and more relaxed knowing that I am physically present at home, even though I work during this time. These opportunities offered by employers make us, employees, more loyal, more involved and more satisfied’, mentioned Nicolae Coada, electrical engineer at Premier Energy Distribution and father of two children. Nicolae took paternal leave to be around them during the first days after the birth.

Nicu Gusan, journalist of Radio Free Europe, also took paternal leave when his daughter was born. ‘It was vital for me to take paternity leave - to be close to my child in the first days, to get to know each other and to discover the world together, and I was actively involved in all household chores, and I did everything needed to share all responsibilities with my wife’.

The event was part of the UNFPA-ADA regional programme ‘Expanding Choices: Gender-Responsive Family Policies for the Private Sector in the Western Balkans and Moldova’.

For more information: Diana Lungu, Communication Officer on Population and Development, or 068156661.