The past decades have seen remarkable gains in women's participation in the labour market and public life. However, women still continue to undertake the majority of unpaid care and domestic work, which is especially true in the first months and years of having a child. This first period is also critical for children, as the quality of the care they receive is a defining factor in their healthy early childhood development and thus also impacts their future success in society.
Therefore, Member States have an important role to play in providing inclusive, gender-responsive social protection policies and public services to all families - and especially to all women - in this critical stage, including paid parental leave, quality, affordable and accessible childcare, job protection, as well as family-friendly and flexible employment policies. Alleviating the childcare-related responsibilities of mothers enables them to return to gainful employment, while engaging fathers in childcare right from the beginning facilitates their long-term positive involvement in caregiving. These efforts together advance gender equality and women's empowerment.
In addition, more attention should be devoted to parenting education as well. Responsive and involved parenting is key in ensuring positive health and development outcomes for the child; however, acquiring the necessary skills may require support. Women in vulnerable situations, such as women living in poverty and in rural areas, or women belonging to national or ethnic minorities face additional barriers when it comes to relying on social networks and accessing public services, and therefore, deserve specific resources and tailored policies. The involvement of fathers in positive parenting contributes to the redistribution of care responsibilities and thus gender equality in general.