Our raison d’être at Debating Europe has always been to encourage people to debate the issues facing Europe. So, whenever we can, we partner with debating societies across the continent that teach people the skills needed to debate publicly.

On Thursday 28 May, we partnered with IDEA, the Solvay Debate Society and the Brussels Debaters to host a “Speak Up!” debate at the ULB Campus in Brussels on the question of: “Should parental leave be compulsory for fathers?”

You can see the introduction to the debate in the video below:

Two teams of three debaters took to the floor, one arguing in favour and one against. A quick poll showed that 90% of the audience was in favour of the motion before the debate even started, so the team arguing against would have their work cut out for them.

Arguing in favour, the first team suggested that the free market approach had failed, and that legislation needed to cope with a changing society:

citizen_icon_180x180The face of families has changed. Expectations of earnings used to fall on men, and child-bearing on women. That’s no longer today’s reality. It’s time to end the disadvantages women face… We need to equalise the playing field; by making men take parental leave during the first four months, we will do that…

In response, the team arguing against conceded that society was changing, but countered that legislation was not the best response:

citizen_icon_180x180We support parents; we just don’t agree with the term ‘compulsory’. It’s wrong to assume making a law mandatory is the right way forward… Changes are happening from within; legislation is not the answer. A lot of men are happy to get engaged in fatherhood. Making parental leave compulsory is forcing men [to spend time with their] children when they don’t want to be there, and that’s not good for children or society.

The result of the closing audience vote? It was a stunning reversal of opinion: 70% voted against, 30% voted in favour, and the motion wasn’t carried! The lesson being that it is indeed possible to convince a majority of people to change their minds, as long as your argument is carefully constructed and convincingly made.

Curious to see if you can be convinced? You can see the video of the debate below:

Should parental leave be compulsory for fathers? What do our online debaters think of the motion? Would compulsory paternity leave help build a fairer society? Or is forcing men to spend time with their children the wrong approach? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Petras Gagilas

35 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Narcis George Matache

    This matter, has absolutely no substance to become compulsory. You cannot impose nazi feminism on every issue, by taking away the rights of the man :(

  2. avatar
    Shakeel Sheikh

    Fathers to have major role to play in well being of the child.
    Fathers to have a dominant position in children’s life

  3. avatar

    Should be a choice, but, if we, as a society, value the father’s contribution to the development of the child, then we should create incentives (not necessarily just financial) instead of taking this “compulsory” approach that smacks to dictatorship and is not European.
    I want an Europe that values social values. Not an Europe of compulsory behaviors.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Lol, and what exactly does the father do to ensure “equality” during the 9 months the mother is carrying the baby?

      Biologically there are physical, mental and maternal differences between men and women that no amount of EU legislation can morf out of existance

  4. avatar
    Paula Rosu

    I think choice is the best approach and at the same time try to minimize the pay gap that has existed, exists and will always exist between men and women, so that no one takes a financial hit for staying at home to raise kids!

  5. avatar
    Goran Niksic

    This should definitely be a matter of choice. But there is definitely stigma looming over the paternity leave in more conservative countries and imposing it on men in these countries would not make the concept accepted

  6. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    Compulsory. I’m a man, and I know we won’t give up that easily. We need CEO and management board quotas, and yes, we would take the pain, I mean, the pleasure, of parental leave, if only we had a good excuse for it. Truth is: women are penalised in their career by taking time off. Its only fair that we should be too.

  7. avatar
    James Campbell

    If it is to be compulsory, it needs to be enforced. How will that happen? Dawn raids to check if the father is attending to the baby or playing on his Xbox?

    What if he says to the police he was looking after the baby 5 mins before they came and he wanted to relax with his Xbox?

    The answer is obviously CCTV in every home linked to police stations so that police officers can keep a close eye on potentially feckless fathers.

  8. avatar
    catherine benning

    No. Not unless their children have no mother.

  9. avatar

    Majority of children would say they love their Mom instead of Dad. This matter happened from the ancient time until today. More stories tell about Mom and a little about Dad. Mom care their children enough for them to love them back. Because she spent time lots more than Dad. Even if Mom is the one who work, Dad can still sit onto their favorite Sofa and do whatever he wanted to do ignoring their children until their children have something in need.

  10. avatar
    Oli Lau

    The European administrations are becoming so scary. Why don’t you leave people alone?

  11. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    The EU does not like people to have a choice, if people did the EU would die tomorrow.

  12. avatar
    Christiane Vermoortel

    If you give them the choice they will all take the extra holidays of course. So whether it is compulsory or optional makes no difference.

    • avatar

      Firstly I’m surprised to see anyone in this day and age refer to paternity or maternity leave as a ‘holiday’. Second of all men in the U.K. and I am sure in many other countries in the EU are made to feel that their career aims will be hindered if they take this time off to be with their children. Women know for a fact that their career aims will be hindered because of their sexual and are of child bearing age. It had always been this way. The only was to prevent employers discriminating against women of a certain age is by enforcing mandatory paternity leave so female employees are no longer seen as a risky investment. It’s also one of the only ways to get some men to actual take the leave they are entitled to when the sit in fear of being judged or held back career wise.

  13. avatar
    Georgi Tashev

    What is this discriminatory attitude question is this ????
    Or work in the EU only fools or they are not people.
    Father Is not a family member, is not a parent of that child.
    On the basis of what law DISCLAIMS father to exercise their rights and obligations as a parent? As a citizen also violated his rights ….

    EU really so stupid to ask such a question?

  14. avatar
    Evangelos Koumentakos

    Yoy mean leave such as ‘sacking’ ? Because in today’s job market asking for a parental leave mat also mean that you are ready to welcome yet another ‘change’ in you life.

  15. avatar
    za za za

    the affirmative side argument is good, but it didn’t push the burden of proof to the negative. Most of the burden is on the aff.

  16. avatar
    David Briggs

    Parental leave? No problem with that if non-parents were given tax relief.

  17. avatar

    It’s Interesting how you people react to this issue. What I don’t understand it why some of you are so strict about this, while I’m sure many of you (if not all of you) are immigrants as well. First of all, to those people who say that these people should not come to Europe, because they take the peace away, that sounds so ridiculous. Please study more about WHO is actually making this mess in those countries and WHO is taking the peace away. US started this ISIS in the area, US, France and UK are giving the most military support to ISIS (they don’t even deny it, just watch some political debates), they have ruined the people’s lives and now you say, DON’T COME TO EUROPE AND LET US LIVE IN PEACE!!! So, I suggest that first you leave these people to live in peace, and I assure you, as soon as they get rid of the mess you make in their countries, they will leave you in peace. I also suggest that you go through the immigration history of your countries. The other very funny thing is, mostly Eastern and Central Europeans are against this refugee movement, but just before 2004, most of the refugee claims in western Europe was made by these Eastern Europeans, and just as soon as they joined the Union in 2004, just within the first year 1 million Eastern Europeans moved to western Europe. The number went so high that it even lead to Brexit in the UK, and now Merkel is even talking about reshaping the union because of the inter-European migration crisis. And these people are not even in war and conflict, but they still look for a better life and opportunity. I don’t think someone needs a huge knowledge to understand that these people are now in need, just like when Europeans were in need during WWI and WWII, and many of them sought asylums in the Middle East, just 116,000 Polish refugees moved to Iran during that time, and the country was so hospitable that they remained there even after the war. This is just an example, you can read the history of migration of your countries and after that you will feel so ashamed of what you are saying about these people.

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