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Ireland ranks second worst across OECD for parental leave and worst for ‘public family policies’

Study finds time off for parents at 7.6 weeks for mothers and just 0.5 weeks for fathers was second worst of 38 industrialised states

Ireland ranks second last of 38 developed countries when it comes to parental leave entitlements, a new study indicates. The research by price comparison website found the average parental leave package across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states stands at 32.73 weeks for mothers and 4.73 for fathers.

However, Ireland was found to have the second-worst entitlement with 7.6 weeks for mothers and just 0.5 weeks for fathers. Only the US, which has no paid parental leave, ranked lower. Romania came top for parental leave with 92.40 weeks for mothers and 4.70 for fathers.

The survey, which is based on figures from the OECD Family Database, also ranked Ireland worst of all OECD countries for “public family policies”, with the State scoring just 1.05 out of 10 when it came to spending on things such as family benefits and education.

Within this category, Ireland ranked second-worst when for spending on both education outside the third level sector (2.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP)) and early education and care (0.3 per cent of GDP) Those figures are from OECD data published in 2018. New data published Monday has equivalent spending in Ireland at 2.3 per cent of GDP on non-tertiary education.


The findings come in the wake of the Budget, which reduced creche fees by 25 per cent per week for families availing of the National Childcare Scheme. The average saving for qualifying families will be €1,200 per child per year. The Government’s cost-of-living measures also included a once-off double child benefit payment

According to, Norway ranked highest for public family policies, scoring 8.15 out of 10. The Scandinavian country spends 4.8 per cent of its GDP on education, second only to Israel, with other benefits including free healthcare and access to public schools and higher education.

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The study revealed the “typical” family unit or size here was 2.7, which was above the OECD average of 2.46 and behind Mexico, which had the highest at 3.9. The average Swedish family was less than half the size, with an average of just 1.80 people.

“While Sweden is considered a good place to raise a family, many young Swedes fly the nest younger than in other countries and choose to live alone,” the survey said.

While single-parent families were in the minority across the world, the nation with the most was Latvia, where they made up 11.5 per cent of households.

Ireland was among the top 10 countries with the most households comprising of couples (57 per cent). It also ranked fifth for most households without children (19 per cent).

“The typical family size and composition varies around the world. There are many factors that can influence the size and structure of families across countries, such as government policies, workplace practices, social norms and cultural patterns,” said Louise Thomas, life insurance expert at

“In general, European countries have smaller families than elsewhere in the world. For example, Sweden has the smallest average global family size, with an average of 1.8 people per family. Whereas Mexico has the largest average global family size with just under 4 people per household (3.93 people), over double that of Sweden,” she said.

“If you’re thinking of starting your own family then it’s important to consider a life insurance policy to secure your family’s future in the event of your death. Life insurance financially protects your family by offering money to help with the mortgage, rent and everyday living expenses after your death,” she said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times