Socially Inclusive Parenting Leaves and Parental Benefit Entitlements: Rethinking Care and Work Binaries

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Socially Inclusive Parenting Leaves and Parental Benefit Entitlements: Rethinking Care and Work Binaries


  • Andrea Doucet Department of Sociology, Brock University, Canada / Centre for Women‘s and Gender Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Brock University, Canada


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Abstract:  How can parental leave design be more socially inclusive? Should all parents be entitled to parental benefits or only those parents who are eligible based on a particular level of labour market participation? To think through questions of social inclusion in parental leave policy design, particularly issues related to entitlements to benefits, I make three arguments. First, aiming to extend Dobrotić and Blum’s work on entitlements to parental benefits, I argue that ‘mixed systems’ that include both citizenship‐based and employment‐based benefits are just and socially inclusive approaches to parental leaves and citizenship. Second, to build a robust conceptual scaffolding for a ‘mixed’ benefits approach, I argue that that we need to attend to the histories and relationalities of the concepts and conceptual narratives that implicitly or explicitly inform parental leave policies and scholarship. Third, and more broadly, I argue that a metanarrative of care and work binaries underpins most scholarship and public and policy discourses on care work and paid work and on social policies, including parental leave policies. In this article, I outline revisioned conceptual narratives of care and work relationalities, arguing that they can begin to chip away at this metanarrative and that this kind of un‐thinking and rethinking can help us to envi‐ sion parental leave beyond employment policy—as care and work policy. Specifically, I focus on conceptual narratives that combine (1) care and work intra‐connections, (2) ethics of care and justice, and (3) ‘social care,’ ‘caring with,’ transforma‐ tive social protection, and social citizenship. Methodologically and epistemologically, this article is guided by my reading of Margaret Somers’ genealogical and relational approach to concepts, conceptual narratives, and metanarratives, and it is written in a Global North socio‐economic context marked by the COVID‐19 pandemic and 21st century neoliberalism.

Keywords:  care; care and justice; conceptual narratives; historical sociology of concept formation; parental leave; parenting leaves; social care; social citizenship; transformative social protection

Published:   11 June 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i2.4003


© Andrea Doucet. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.