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Men’s attitudes to sharing parenting tasks

A survey conducted in 2005–2006 by the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy as part of an EU project aimed to investigate working men’s perceptions of shared parenthood. The survey indicates that traditions are still very strong in Bulgarian society and that stereotypical views on the family roles of the two parents – with the mother being responsible for childcare and the father being the ‘breadwinner’ – still predominate.

About the survey

In 2005–2006, the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (Министерство на труда и социалната политика, MLSP) and the Gender Project for Bulgaria Foundation conducted a project entitled ‘Men equal, men different’. It was part of a European project under the EU 5th Framework Programme on gender equality and carried out with partners in Denmark, France and Latvia.

In the framework of the project, the partners conducted:

This article mainly looks at the survey findings of fathers’ perceptions and practices in terms of parental leave and family activities. The partners carrying out the surveys used a common methodology; in Bulgaria, a standardised questionnaire (included in the project’s Joint report (278Kb PDF) by the Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality) was sent to men working in three organisations: Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC), Sopharma and the municipality of Sofia. A total of 434 employees responded. The employer survey was conducted with five managers in the same companies. The research applied a case study approach, so the results are representative for neither the country nor for the respective companies.

Main findings

Respondents’ profile

The vast majority of the survey respondents were between the ages of 25 and 40 years (37%) or 40 and 60 years (54%). Only 5.5% of respondents were below 25 years of age. Almost all of the respondents (95.6%) worked full time. Respondents with only a secondary education prevailed (48.3%), along with university and college graduates (50.9%). Most of the respondents were married (69.6%) while only a small proportion of them (7.8%) were cohabiting with partners. Three quarters of respondents had children (75.2%), with 10% having children aged up to three years, 16% having children aged four to 12 years and 49% having older children.

Parental leave

Three out of four respondents stated that it was not possible for fathers to take parental leave. A possible explanation of this response is that parental leave was introduced by law in recent years and many of the respondents had their children before that. About 15% of respondents stated that they did not know about their statutory parental leave rights, or did not use this entitlement. Only 6% made use of this possibility (BG0805049I). The international research found significant differences between the four participating countries in this area (Figure 1).

Fathers taking parental leave (%)

Source: Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality, Joint report, 2006

Flexible hours and family-friendly policies

Most of the respondents (73%) in Bulgaria stated that their company provided family-friendly policies, especially days off to care for sick children (28.3%) and family holiday homes (35.9%). While more than half of the respondents had the option of working flexible hours in the other three countries examined, this was the situation for only 5.3% of respondents in Bulgaria (Figure 2).

Respondents with options of using family-friendly policies (%)

Source: Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality, Joint report, 2006

The employers’ survey found that company family-friendly policy did not go beyond the ‘traditional forms’ in Bulgaria. Flexible working hours, telework and other measures for reconciling work and family life were only rarely used.

Activities with children

Most respondents (87%) reported that they engaged in activities with their children, with fathers having children aged up to three years most likely to do so (94%). Playing indoor games (50%), helping with school work (38%) and helping to repair bicycles and build models (38%) were the most popular activities for Bulgarian fathers. The largest proportion of respondents reporting no such involvement with their children cited lack of time as a reason (53.8%) or considered this to be a mother’s obligation (7.7%).

The international data indicate differing profiles of fathers’ activities with children in the four participating countries (Figure 3).

Profile of fathers’ activities with children (%)

Source: Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality, Joint report, 2006

Participation in household activities

A significant majority of Bulgarian respondents (85.5%) reported that they participated in household activities (Figure 4). However, participation in cooking, laundry and dishwashing were low. The proportion of men participating in shopping and taking care of children was higher, at 60.6% and 51.8% respectively.

Fathers participating in household activities (%)

Source: Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality, Joint report, 2006

A ‘good father’

The survey indicates that traditions are still very strong in Bulgarian society and that stereotypes of family roles predominate – with the mother being responsible for taking care of children and the father being the ‘breadwinner’. When asked what it means to be a ‘good father’, most respondents indicated that it was to ‘work hard to ensure good living conditions’ (51.7%), while only a third of respondents (32.5%) stated that it was to spend time with their family. This contrasts with the other three countries examined (Figure 5) and can probably be seen as an indicator of both the traditional stereotypes remaining in Bulgaria and the country’s low living standards.

What it means to be a good father (%)

Source: Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality, Joint report, 2006

Commentary

Despite the government policies encouraging shared parenthood, cultural, economic and organisational barriers remain and impede men from taking more responsibility as parents. There is a need for a joint employer–trade union policy, both to raise awareness about EU policy in favour of reconciliation of work and family life and the opportunities provided by the Bulgarian legislation, and to promote the negotiation of arrangements for flexible work and family-friendly policies in companies.

Nadezhda Daskalova, Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR)



Page last updated: 22 December, 2008
About this document
  • ID: BG0809029I
  • Author: Nadezhda Daskalova
  • Institution: Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR)
  • Country: Bulgaria
  • Language: EN
  • Publication date: 22-12-2008
  • Subject: Gender and work, Work-life balance