Dissertation Abstracts

Failure Has No Fathers: The Formation of the Israeli Parental Leave for Fathers, Between Ideational and Material Factors

Author: Perez-Vaisvidovsky, Nadav , nadav.perez@gmail.com
Department: Social Work
University: Hebrew University, Israel
Supervisor: John Gal, Mimi Ajzenstadt
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: masculinty , fatherhood , social policy , gender
Areas of Research: Family Research , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


Parental leave for fathers is the main policy tool used to encourage fathers to take a larger part in caring for children and in sharing household labor. In this dissertation, I explore the process by which the parental leave for fathers program was formed in Israel, by analyzing both the ideational and the institutional factors that have influenced the policy-making process. Thus, the research question leading this work is: How did the interaction between ideational and cultural factors, and specifically policy frames, and structural and institutional factors take place, and how did it influence the formation of parental leave for fathers program in Israel?

To answer this question, data were gathered on the development of the program, from the legislation of the 14th amendment to the Women Labor Act in 1994 to 2010. Data were gathered from interviews and archival sources, and analyzed both on the ideational and on the organizational level.

From this analysis, I reach three main conclusions. The first touches on the way policymakers in Israel act to expand gender equality. The vast majority of policy makers see such equality as a worthy cause. However, they disagree on the ways to achieve this aim, and in particular, on the role that men and fathers should play. While some see the struggle for gender equality as a zero-sum game, and believe that every gain women make is at men’s expense, others claim that the promotion of a father’s participation in household labor is central to the program. The second conclusion of this study concerns the interaction of policy frames with other explanatory mechanisms. This study reveals a composed picture. When significant organizational or structural interests exist, but not established frames for the interpretation of a program, interests lead to the creation and adoption of frames that support those interests. However, when frames are fixated but no significant interests of this kind exist, the frame is used in structuring the organizational interests, thus determining its course of action.

The third conclusion concerns the concept of Path Dependency. I claim that the 'foot in the door' tactic, chosen by the program initiators in order to install a minimal program and improve it at later stages, had decisive influence on the inability to do the very same. The minimized form of the initial program led to a minimized view of the program role and goals. This view, in its turn, hindered future attempts to expand the program, as those were seen as 'opposing to the spirit of the law'. Once a minimized view of the program became fixed, it thwarted future attempts at expansion.