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UBC Theses and Dissertations

No parents left behind : a feminist and intersectional perspective on Canadian and Argentine parental leave laws Cornejo, Sofia


Gender inequality in the distribution of unpaid care work and participation in the labour market is a critical issue around the world. Many countries have introduced parental leave policies as a mechanism to mitigate this gender disparity, having a direct impact on two main aspects of a person’s life: family and work. Nevertheless, most of these policies continue to be based on a nuclear family and the standard worker models, which are outdated. Families and work have recently experienced profound transformations, becoming more complex and diverse. Several families and types of employment have emerged, disputing the prevalence of the nuclear family and standard worker models. This leads to questioning whether parental leave policies have addressed these transformations and ensured equal protection for all parents across different families and employment relationships, closing the gender gaps or, conversely, these policies have reinforced not only gender but also social inequalities. Through a comprehensive comparative study of the Argentine and Canadian laws, this thesis deconstructs the assumptions about an ideal family and worker that underpin the parental leave regulations and the outcomes for parents in various families and employment relationships. Despite the Canadian legislation appearing to be more progressive and gender-inclusive than the Argentine, this thesis argues that both countries' parental leave laws fall short in ensuring equal access to and scope of leave benefits for parents in different families and employment arrangements. Through feminist and intersectional lenses, several indicators of the preference for an ideal nuclear family and standard worker that persist in the parental leave regulations of Argentina and Canada are identified. Furthermore, the negative effects experienced by certain non-traditional families and non-standard workers when trying to access parental leave benefits in the compared jurisdictions are discussed. This thesis concludes that in Argentina and Canada, non-traditional families and non-standard workers encounter greater barriers to access to and receive less parental leave benefits than parents in nuclear families and standard employment, which reinforces gender and social inequalities. The understanding of the unequal protection granted to different families and workers in the context of parental leave policies may benefit future legal reforms.

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