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:
The 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:
We 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!