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“Work-life stability continues to be a marketing campaign situation”

Paper Jam: Following the success of Petition 2332, which called for parental leave to be extended to nine months, a public debate was held in the House of Representatives on 9 November. How do you rate the success of this petition?

Corinne Cahen: I’m not surprised that this petition got the quorum of signatures for a subsequent debate, and I found that we were on the same page with the two petitioners (Michèle Senninger and Anne Heintz, ed.’s note). They didn’t want women to stay at home at all. On the contrary, they are committed to equality between men and women.

Paper Jam: If MEPs took the idea rather positively, you expressed some reservations to the Labor Minister Georges Engel (LSAP), who was also present…

Corinne Cahen: Yes, because if parental leave is so successful in Luxembourg it is because it is very well paid compared to before the 2016 reform and compared to other countries.

Paper Jam: This means?

Corinne Cahen: Before the summer, when the petition had collected the number of signatures needed for a public debate, I inquired about the proposals in different countries on parental leave. It’s very difficult to compare, because in some federal states, for example, parental leave can be transferred from one parent to another, and I’m absolutely against it, because the mother often takes all the leave.

Paper Jam: What would be the risk if those three extra months were not paid for?

Corinne Cahen: It is feared that the majority of parental leave at nine months is taken by women, and in a society in which men and women have equal rights, we do not want that when it comes to raising children.

Paper Jam: The reform of parental leave in 2016 made it possible to find a balance?

Corinne Cahen : Yes, what bothered me a lot about the parental leave up to now was that mums took it and dads much less because it wasn’t paid well enough and wasn’t flexible enough. Six months full-time or twelve months part-time was too much for some fathers, so we made it flexible and divisible in different ways. And the fact that replacement income now exists means people can afford to take it.

Paper Jam: Parental leave is now so popular with men?

Corinne Cahen : Yes, in 2021, 6,186 men took more parental leave than women compared to 5,450 women.

Paper Jam: Can we imagine that parental leave will be an issue in the next general election?

Corinne Cahen : The compatibility of family and career is always a topic in election programs, as is running a company, because you can’t have one without the other. The idea of ​​parental leave was also to tell women that they shouldn’t stop working, that they can take the time to be with their child but at the same time stay active. With the introduction of parental leave, many more men are taking it than before 2016, but we also have more women in the labor market and we need workers. So I think that keeping women active can only be good for businesses.

Paper Jam: So nine months parental leave would be possible?

Corinne Cahen : I think the world is moving forward and we have to see how we want to organize ourselves as a society. If the budget is there and depending on the amount of compensation that would be provided for the additional three months, nothing can be ruled out. I think parental leave is one way, but there can be others.

Paper Jam: The?

Corinne Cahen : I am thinking of maternity leave, for example: there are some countries where maternity leave is less rigid, where it can be made more flexible. Thus, a pregnant woman entitled to five months’ maternity leave would work until she gave birth and would have her full five months after giving birth.

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