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CESifo DICE Report 2/2009
Reform Models
This article addresses the development of leave poli-
cies, in particular parental leave, in the Netherlands.
This development can be characterised as a search for
the most accurate interpretation of the leave instru-
ment and the corresponding division of responsibili-
ties between the government, social partners and par-
ents.Starting from a position in which parental leave
was interpreted as a way to facilitate part-time em-
ployment, the Act on Parental Leave of 1991 provid-
ed a basic entitlement to take part-time,unpaid leave
for a relatively short period of time. It was left to the
social partners to supplement this minimum, for ex-
ample, in terms of length or in terms of income sup-
port. Over time, however,the public responsibility re-
garding leave has increased. This is apparent not on-
ly in the increasing number of leave policies,but also
in a growing public involvement in the provision of
income support. During this process, the interpreta-
tion of parental leave seemed to have changed from
a labour market instrument pure and simple,towards
a more complex instrument also targeting the facili-
tation of parenthood and the wellbeing of children.
Legal entitlements
In 1991, after some years of debate, the Act on
Parental leave came into force in the Netherlands.
This act granted an unpaid part-time parental leave
for a maximum of six months to employees who had
been employed by their current employer for at least
one year to be taken within four years after the birth
of a child (TK 1987–1988).
The design of the parental leave was mainly inspired
by practical feasibility and labour market effects;
leave policies were hardly discussed as part of the
care system with young children as the primary ben-
eficiaries (Plantenga and Remery 2009). Given the
importance attached to part-time working hours as a
means of increasing the female participation rate,the
parental leave policy was to enable young parents to
work part-time during a period of heavy care re-
sponsibilities. The leave entitlement was therefore
structured as a part-time right: the employee was to
remain active in the labour market for at least
20 hours per week.A second important consideration
in the early debates was that the leave arrangement
should favour the equal division of paid and unpaid
work between men and women.As a result, parental
leave was defined as an individual, non-transferable
right and not as a family right. Finally,the entitlement
was unpaid, because parents were considered pri-
marily responsible for raising their children. In addi-
tion, it was argued that a paid leave would result in
an undesirable increase in the tax burden for both the
private and collective sector.
Although the parental leave legislation was wel-
comed as a first important step towards a more gen-
der equal society, there were several problems with
the actual design of the leave policy.The stipulations
of the act, especially the 20-hour threshold,excluded
quite a number of (part-time) working mothers from
taking leave. Another problem referred to the fact
that the actual design of the leave policy did not
favour an equal sharing of paid and unpaid work; it
was presumed that a more flexible approach, espe-
cially the possibility to spread the leave hours over a
longer period of time, would increase the take-up of
men. A final argument against the rather rigid part-
time orientation of the parental leave legislation was
that this approach was not in line with the draft di-
rective on parental leave of the European Union,
which (either implicitly or explicitly) favoured a full-
time leave (Spaans and Van der Werf 1994).
The remedy for these problems was to take a differ-
ent approach to parental leave. While in the act of
1991 parental leave could be interpreted as introduc-
* Utrecht University School of Economics.
ing a statutory right to reduce working hours against
the background of a rather standard working-time
regime, the new proposal brought parental leave in
line with the growing reality of rather divers and in-
dividualised working hours. In the new draft (TK
1995–1996), the total number of leave hours was set
at 13 times the number of the contractual weekly
working hours. The statutory right is still part-time:
parents have the legal right to lower their working
hours by 50 percent over a period of 26 weeks.
However, employees may request the employer’s
permission to spread the leave hours over a longer
period than six months or to take more hours per
week. Employers may not refuse unless compelling
business reasons dictate otherwise.As a result of this
proposal, the flexibility of the leave policy was in-
creased, while it also became accessible for part-
timers.Moreover, it was suggested that the period un-
til which the leave could be taken should be extend-
ed from four years to six years (TK 1995–1996). This
extension would facilitate the transition from day
care facilities to primary school. In the final negotia-
tions over the parental leave act, the period during
which the leave can be taken was further extended
until the child was eight years old. This was in line
with the EU Directive on Parental Leave, which was
accepted in 1996 (TK 1997). Despite these major
changes,the leave remained unpaid.The government
persisted in its original point of view that income sup-
port during leave is an issue to be settled by the so-
cial partners through collective labour agreements.
The changed Act on Parental leave came into force
on 1 July 1997.
A few years later, the leave legislation was streamlined
in the Work and Care Act of 2001 (TK 1998–1999).The
act included the right to paid maternity leave (16
weeks), paid paternity leave (2 days),unpaid parental
leave (for a maximum of 6 month on a part-time ba-
sis) and provisions in case of adoption and multiple
births.In addition to the specifically child-related leave
benefits, provisions to care for family or household
members include paid emergency leave, paid short-
term carers’ leave and a regulation to finance a career
break in order to care or to study. Since June 2005 the
Work and Care Act has been extended with an enti-
tlement of all employees to take (unpaid) long-term
leave to care for a terminally ill child, partner or par-
ent. The design of the long-term care leave follows to
some extent the logic of the parental leave legislation.
The maximum duration of this leave is 6 times the
weekly number of working hours in a period of 12 suc-
cessive months.In contrast to parental leave,however,
long-term care leave is not a statutory right; employ-
ers may refuse because of compelling business reasons.
Employers’ involvement
From the very start, the employer has been given an
important role in the introduction of leave policies
within the Dutch working-time regime. By way of
collective labour agreements,the social partners are
expected to top up public policy, which is mainly con-
cerned with guarantying the minimum right. In order
to create some flexibility and to allow for tailor-made
solutions, the leave legislation is also of a so-called
three-quarter mandatory legal nature. This means
that deviation from the standard legal provision is al-
lowed by way of collective agreement or by decision
of the employee’s council. In case of parental leave,
divergent agreements are for example possible with
regard to the splitting up of the leave and/or the
spreading of the leave over the year. Also the age
stipulation (the fact that the leave has to be taken up
before the eight birthday of the child) may be
changed.The particular role of the employers in this
dossier reflects the overall system of industrial rela-
tions with consultation and involvement at the cen-
tral level, but which at the same time, emphasises the
importance of decentralisation and tailor-made so-
lutions. Yet the division of responsibilities is rather
fluid. As the OECD puts it: “The government speci-
fies issues that it thinks should be the topics under
discussion in industrial bargaining. If the outcomes
are unsatisfactory as they have been over leave,
working time flexibility and childcare, to some ex-
tent, it may then consider imposing legislation”
(OECD 2002: 16).An interesting illustration of this
search for the optimal division of responsibilities is
offered by the payment issue.
Within the context of the Act on Parental leave, the
payment was left to the employees and the employ-
ers; collective agreements are expected to provide for
income support. However, several studies indicated
that the majority of employers did not offer any pay-
ment during the period of parental leave,and this ma-
jority proved to be fairly stable.The unpaid character
of the leave had a negative impact on the take up rate.
An evaluation in 1999 indicated that only one in five
eligible parents actually made use of this right
(Grootscholte et al. 2000).Yet in branches with paid
leave the take-up rates were five times higher than in
branches without paid leave.Two third of the parents
that were entitled to the leave but did not use it stat-
CESifo DICE Report 2/2009 48
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CESifo DICE Report 2/2009
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ed that they would have taken it if 70 percent of the
wages had been paid.
The rather reluctant attitude of the employers and the
effects of this attitude in terms of take-up rates creat-
ed a growing public support for additional measures.
A more positive approach on the part of the employ-
ers was also favoured because of the presumption that
higher take-up rates would contribute to a more equal
sharing of unpaid care work, which was still an im-
portant goal of the emancipation policy. Finally,
arrangements for paid leave would fit with develop-
ments in Europe, showing an increasing number of
member states offering paid parental leave (TK
2000–2001:5). Making paid leave mandatory was still
considered unrealistic, however, given the primary
role employers were expected to play in matters con-
cerning labour conditions.The solution was to change
the fiscal incentive structure. By 2001, employers
could deduct 50 percent of the costs of paid leave,un-
der the condition that payment during parental leave
was at least 70 percent of the minimum wage. In ad-
dition, payment was to be included in the collective
agreement or made available to at least three-quarter
of the employees in the firm. With this tax deduction
the actual payment became the shared responsibility
of the government, the employer and the employee.
Employers,however, have never been particularly ea-
ger to supplement legal provisions. Research carried
out in 2004 indicated that only half of the employers
were familiar with the Work and Care Act;small com-
panies in particular did not have a positive view on
these matters (Van der Linden and Van der Werf
2004). It seemed that the employer was overburdened
by the specificity of the measures.It also implied that
– more than 15 years after the introduction – only a
minority of the potential leave takers were entitled to
a paid parental leave.
Parental leave: take-up rates
The fact that young parents in the Netherlands are
not entitled to paid parental leave presumably ex-
plains why the take-up is still far from 100 percent; see
the Table for further details. In 2006 the take-up
among women amounted to 44 percent while 21 per-
cent of the entitled men took up parental leave.
Although the take-up rate of men is considerably
lower, it is fairly high compared with that of other
European countries (Plantenga and Remery 2005).
The Table indicates that there are also slight differ-
ences in the average length of the leave taken up by
men or women. Men on average take up eight hours
of leave and spread the number of leave hours over 11
months.Women take up more hours of leave,resulting
in a somewhat shorter duration of the leave period.
The data seem to indicate that, in a typical case, both
parents use the possibility of spreading the leave hours
over a longer period of time. Part-time parental leave
is thus still the usual option despite the possibility to
organise leave on a full-time basis.This is in line with
the overall emphasis on part-time working hours with-
in Dutch society. Whereas in some of the other
European countries leave is scheduled before the use
of childcare facilities,in the Netherlands a parallel ap-
proach is advocated. To balance work and family life,
parents use part-time working hours,partly facilitated
by parental leave legislation, in combination with a
part-time use of childcare facilities. By implication,
childcare facilities are open to very young children,
starting directly after the 16 weeks of maternity leave.
Latest developments
Although the Work and Care Act was considered to
be a final piece of legislation, the debate over this
dossier never completely stop-
ped. Improving the possibilities
to take up leave for the purpose
of care or study became an im-
portant element in the debate on
modernising social security. At
the same time there was a grow-
ing reluctance to add just anoth-
er piece of legislation to an al-
ready complex dossier. Rather
the emphasis was on finding an
innovative and flexible approach
which would solve several prob-
lems and fit into a more mature,
individualistic approach towards
Take-up of parental leave among entitled employees, 2000–06
Take up of parental
Average length of
in hours per week
Average length of
in months
Female Male Female Male Fe male Male
2000 39.0 15.8 12 9 8 11
2001 45.3 15.7 12 8 8 10
2002 37.3 15.9 12 9 8 11
2003 42.1 15.9 12 8 8 10
2004 39.6 18.0 11 9 9 10
2005 44.1 18.9 11 8 8 11
2006 43.8 21.0 10 8 9 11
Source: C BS Statline .
social security. In this context, the life-course perspec-
tive became an important frame of reference for both
policy makers and academics (Plantenga 2005). The
first initiative to develop a life-course savings scheme
was undertaken in 2002 but it was not until 2006 that
the Dutch scheme came into effect. According to this
scheme employees may save up to 12 percent of their
gross annual income tax-free for a “life-course prod-
uct”. Employees may use it to finance a period of non-
labour-force participation. In principle, the period of
leave may be used for all kinds of different purposes,
like going on holidays,care obligations or a sabbatical.
A maximum of 210 percent of the last-earned yearly
wage may be saved, which amounts to three years of
leave at 70 percent of the last earned income.The de-
ferred tax principle is applicable implying that no tax-
es are paid on the savings account, but solely on the
withdrawal. In addition,there is a fiscal bonus for each
participating year as a result of which the life-course
scheme can be characterised as a tax-favored private
savings scheme. Finally, parents who take up parental
leave and participate in the life-course scheme have
access to an extra fiscal benefit of 50 percent of the
minimum wage for the statutory period of parental
leave. As a result, although the statutory right for
parental leave was still unpaid, since 2006 young par-
ents had access to paid parental leave as long as they
participated in the life-course savings scheme.
The organisation of the income support for leave tak-
ers may not be a very elegant nor a very transparent
solution – the time component of parental leave is
now organised within the context of the Work and
Care Act, whereas the payment is organised within
the context of the life-course scheme.Yet it indicates
a shift from the interpretation of the leave instrument
from only enabling part-time working hours for par-
ents towards a broader perspective in which the well-
being of young parents and children also plays a role.
The introduction of a tax credit also indicates the dif-
ficulty of generating a full coverage by collective
labour agreements.The reluctance of the employers
to provide income support is thereby acknowledged,
and the government has taken over the responsibili-
ty. Within this context it is only logical that by intro-
ducing the parental credit within the life-course
scheme,the tax relief for employers who provide paid
parental leave has been terminated.
In addition to the payment issue, the length of the
parental leave period also became a subject of policy
concern. At the start of the fourth Balkenende cabi-
net in 2007 the Coalition Agreement (2007) stated
that “parents should be able to combine labour and
care, working and raising children. In the rush hour
of life it should be possible to organize a time out.The
life-course scheme also serves that purpose. The
statutory right to parental leave will be lengthened
from 13 to 26 weeks per employee and will not be
transferable.The life-course scheme will be reorgan-
ised accordingly” (p. 29). Indeed, as of the first of
January 2009,the length of parental leave is now fixed
at 26 times the contractual number of working hours.
Young parents are thus entitled to a part-time (50
percent) leave of 52 weeks. Contrary to the original
statement, however,the fiscal benefit is now granted
to all employees taking-up parental leave and no
longer reserved for employees also participating in
the life-course scheme.This can be interpreted as an
important first step to develop a more broadly ac-
cepted, paid parental leave legislation.
This slight reorientation also seems to imply a shift
from a concurrent towards a more consecutive rela-
tionship between leave arrangements and childcare
provision. The latest Equal Opportunities Policy
Note, for example, points out that the 26 weeks per
parent was chosen so that working parents,when tak-
ing up parental leave, can care for their child during
his/her first year (OCW 2007, 31). This indicates a
clear break from earlier policies, according to which
the leave taker was supposed to remain attached to
the labour market and the parental leave scheme on-
ly to facilitate part-time working hours.
Concluding remarks
The Dutch policies on parental leave seem rather lim-
ited compared to other European countries. In fact,
it seems fair to state that Dutch policy makers always
had some ambivalence towards the instrument of
leave.Presumably,this rather austere attitude is part-
ly inspired by the Dutch working-time regime that is
characterised by relatively short full-time working
hours and a high part-time rate.As a result, the pres-
sure for extended leave policies has never been
strong. Rather the parental leave policy was intend-
ed to facilitate the attachment to the labour market
in a period in which care responsibilities were rather
heavy. As such the parental leave legislation entitles
parents to work part-time. Consistent with this view,
the payment issue is of only secondary importance.
The developments within the parental leave legisla-
tion also demonstrate an underlying search for the
CESifo DICE Report 2/2009 50
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CESifo DICE Report 2/2009
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proper design. On the whole this search seems rather
“incremental” and problem-oriented; there was no
particular, goal-oriented plan.As such the specific de-
tails of the parental leave legislation illustrate the typ-
ical Dutch problem-solving style of decision-making
(e.g.,Hemerijck and Visser 1999).This particular style
and the heavy reliance on party-political compromis-
es may not always translate into extremely transpar-
ent regulations.This is also illustrated by the parental
leave case in the sense that the entitlement to leave
and the entitlement to income support is organised by
different legislation. As stated before, this is not a
very carefully considered design and it is quite per-
ceivable that it will lower the use of parental leave
(Haan and Plantenga 2007).
Nevertheless, there are clear signs of a somewhat
broader perspective on the leave instrument. With
hindsight, the inclusion of payment within the life-
course scheme may be assessed as a slight detour that
has made financial support for leave takers from pub-
lic funds more acceptable. Within a European per-
spective,the extension of the period of parental leave
to 26 weeks (in full time equivalents) is certainly an
improvement. The level of payment remains rather
low, however, despite improvements, which raises
concern about affordability and related to this the
take-up of parental leave.
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... In the Netherlands, partnered fathers' engagement in childcare has been promoted to some extent, yet many policies still consider fathers as primary breadwinners and mothers as primary caregivers (Korpi et al., 2013). Since 2001 fathers are entitled to two days of paternity leave, 3 whereas mothers get sixteen weeks of maternity leave (Plantenga & Remery, 2009). Because paternity leave is limited and there is no heavily subsidized public childcare, a "one-and-a-half earner" model has become dominant (Visser, 2002)-with the majority of two-parent families with children composed of a full-time working father and a part-time working mother who takes most responsibility for childcare. ...
Full-text available
Separated fathers are generally assumed to be less involved with their children than partnered fathers. Yet, extant research on separated fathers has mainly focused on nonresident fathers without taking into consideration the existing diversity in post-separation residence arrangements. In fact, separated resident and shared residence fathers may possibly be more involved than partnered fathers, because the former likely bear primary childcare responsibilities, while the latter often act as secondary caregivers. This study extends previous research by investigating father involvement via regular care and leisure activities across a full range of separated fathers, and how it compares to that of partnered fathers, as well as whether patterns differ by father's education. Data from the New Families in the Netherlands survey (N = 1592) reveal that as compared to partnered fathers, shared residence fathers and especially resident fathers are more actively involved in the regular care of their child, whereas nonresident fathers are less involved. Results are similar for leisure, except that partnered fathers are similarly involved as shared residence fathers in this activity. Education also matters: involvement of fathers across different post-separation residence arrangements is more similar to that of partnered fathers when being highly educated. These findings suggest that including resident and shared residence fathers in the picture offers a more optimistic view of fathers' post-separation parenting role, because these separated fathers are actually more actively involved in childrearing than partnered fathers. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10680-021-09593-1.
... Service quality is defined as the extent to which childcare provision meets parental needs and expectations regarding the desired quality of childcare services and equitable choices. These can be; however, challenging or even problematic for government, where the state has relatively little influence on improving the service quality offered when promoting a market-based approach (Lloyd, 2013;Penn, 2009;Plantenga & Remery, 2009). Under this arrangement, service quality becomes an issue for parents in terms of whether it is sufficient to warrant taking up the provision (Kreyenfeld & Hank, 2000;Song, 2009). ...
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The paper is aimed at exploring how the meaning of universal free childcare was communicated during the first policy initiation process in 2012. In order to do so, interpretative policy analysis was utilised as a methodological approach, whilst relevant policy documents and in-depth interviews were used for data collection. I argue that failings occurred because the policy implementation was placed on the agenda with a lack of commitment to increasing the number of public childcare centres, as well as disengagement from understanding the gender relations necessary for delivering universal childcare effectively.
... A complex mix of informal unpaid and formal paid entitlements across and within nations makes the magnitude of paternal leave-taking difficult to assess (O'Brien, 2011). Nevertheless, there have been several overviews of leave policies published in EU member states (Bennett & Moss, 2010;Moss, 2012;Plantenga & Remery, 2009). Robila (2012) provides an overview of leave policies in Eastern Europe and O'Brien (2013) gives a comprehensive overview of leave rights in 57 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. ...
Using information published in 2014 annual review of the International Network on Leave Policies and Research, the article analyses parental leave and benefit policies in 29 countries to identify which characteristics can potentially facilitate fathers’ take-up of parental leave. The scarce statistics that is available shows that only few countries have been successful in increasing fathers’ participation in the parental leaves, despite the fact that some recent policy schemes seem to have drawn lessons from the Nordic success. There are several countries which indeed have adopted principles similar to the Nordic countries in their leave schemes, such as fathers’ quota, generous income-related benefit or long duration of the leave. The evidence suggests that only taking over some elements of the successful policy schemes does not necessarily lead to a change in the leave-taking behaviour of fathers and families. The evidence shows reasonably high take-up of parental leave only in countries where there is a combination of fathers’ quota and high level of benefit. There is still no evidence to confirm that replicating the fathers’ quota in its Nordic designs other societies would generate similar behavioural change as it did in the Nordic countries.
... Unpaid six-month-long parental leave was introduced in 1991. Since January 2009 parents are entitled to a part-time (50 per cent) parental leave of fifty-two weeks per parent per child under the age of eight years, with compensation dependent on sectoral collective agreements and consequently not provided in all sectors (Plantenga and Remery 2009). ...
This article uses data from 2008–10 to analyze parental leave policies in twenty-one European countries and their influence on men's behavior. It examines entitlement characteristics, such as nontransferability, duration, payment, compulsory period, and other policies to assess their effect on the proportion of leave men use out of the total parental leave in each country. The findings, which suggest that a large majority of men take nontransferable and highly paid leave, and a small minority take other types, provide the basis for developing the Parental Leave Equality Index (PLEI). PLEI ranks countries by the degree to which parental leave policies reinforce or diminish the gendered division of labor. Results indicate that although Iceland's parental leave policies do the most to advance gender equity, no country has equal, nontransferable, and well-paid leave for each parent. This policy arrangement would be a precondition to men's and women's equal participation in childcare.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the nature of Dutch approach to achieving Work Life Balance (WLB) and to draw policy implications for Japan. It is argued that flexibility of working hours and flexibility offered at one's working place are essential elements of WLB. In this respect, the Netherlands has attained relatively advanced policies and practices. For instance, workers in the Netherlands enjoy a strong degree of flexibility in terms of working hours, a system that strives to bring actual working hours close to desired working hours. Furthermore, the country is currently seeking to increase flexibility for workers in the choice of their place of work through the promotion of telework.First, this paper first positions the Netherlands in a cross-country comparison with other advanced countries—Japan, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States —that have adopted different approaches to the labour market and related public policies. Second, the paper presents a theoretical discussion on the flexibility of working hours. Third, it focuses on three important aspects of WLB in the Netherlands, namely, part-time work, family-friendly policies, and telework. Finally, the paper considers WLB policies and work-style practices in the Netherlands based on a hearing survey of four major private-sector companies.
Raising children and having a career both rate highly as important life goals for many people. Helping parents to achieve these goals is vital for society: parental care plays a crucial role in child development and parental employment promotes economic prosperity. A failure to assist parents find their preferred work and family balance has implications for both labour supply and family decisions. This study considers how a wide range of policies, including tax/benefit policies, childcare policies, and employment and workplace practices, help determine parental labour market outcomes and family formation in Austria, Ireland and Japan.
The Netherlands: Bridging Labour and Care The Politics of Parental Leave Policies Meer kansen voor vrouwenMinisterie van OCW, Den Haag
  • J Plantenga
  • C Remery
  • S Kamerman
  • P Moss
Plantenga, J. and C. Remery (2009), “The Netherlands: Bridging Labour and Care”, in S. Kamerman and P. Moss,eds., The Politics of Parental Leave Policies, Policy Press, Bristol. OCW (Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap; 2007), Meer kansen voor vrouwen.Emancipatiebeleid 2008–2011,Ministerie van OCW, Den Haag. OECD (2002),Babies and Bosses:Reconciling Work and Family Life, vol. 1,Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands, Paris
The Netherlands: Bridging Labour and Care The Politics of Parental Leave Policies
  • J Plantenga
  • C Remery
Plantenga, J. and C. Remery (2009), "The Netherlands: Bridging Labour and Care", in S. Kamerman and P. Moss,eds., The Politics of Parental Leave Policies, Policy Press, Bristol.
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap
OCW (Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap; 2007),
Evaluatie Wet op het ouderschapsverlof
  • M Grootscholte
  • J A Bouwmeester
  • P De Klaver
Grootscholte, M., J.A. Bouwmeester and P. de Klaver (2000), Evaluatie Wet op het ouderschapsverlof, Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, 's-Gravenhage.
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