The Best Countries in the World to Be a Father

Father's Day celebrations may have originated in Washington state in the early 20th century, but the United States isn't necessarily the friendliest place for the paterfamilias.

What it means for a country to be good for fathers, of course, differs across time and cultures. But, as we noted last year on Mother's Day, some countries simply prioritize parenting more than others.

When it comes to family-friendly government policies, for instance, there's Scandinavia and then there's the rest of the world. Many of the countries offering the most generous paid paternity leave are Scandinavian, and Norway in particular emerges as arguably the best place in the world to be a father.

Norway is a perennial favorite in best-country lists -- most recently topping the United Nations' Human Development Index -- and it's just as formidable when it comes to fatherhood. Famous for generous parental leave for both sexes - either 46 weeks off at full pay or 56 weeks off at 80 percent of salary (to be divided up between the two parents) -- Norway ensures that new fathers take advantage of the opportunity with its policy of pappapermisjon - a 10-week period of leave reserved exclusively for men. Combine this with two weeks of paid paternity leave carved out for immediately after childbirth, and dads in Norway can look forward to 12 weeks off to spend with their new baby. Ninety percent of Norwegian fathers are now participating in the program, compared with the two to three percent of fathers who were taking parental leave back in the early 1990s, when Norway established its pappapermisjon policy.

Another northern European overachiever is Iceland. Although paid leave policies took a bit of a hit following Iceland's 2008 banking crisis, the country's parliament has since striven to restore what was originally one of the most generous systems in the world. While current Icelandic law provides nine months of paid leave with a 3-3-3 split (three months for mothers, three for fathers, and three to split between parents), by 2016 Iceland will have adopted a 12-month, 5-5-2 system, in which fathers receive five months of paid parental leave, plus an additional two month to be split as the couple sees fit.

If you're searching for that elusive combination of good family policies and stellar Father's Day traditions, it's hard to beat Germany. Like its neighbors to the north, the Father-Friendly Land is no slouch when it comes to parental leave. The government offers 12 months of leave, paid at 67 percent of a parent's salary, to be split between a couple. While there is no leave exclusively reserved for the father, families receive an additional two months of paid leave if the father also takes at least two months off.

But while giving fathers a chance to bond with their newborn babies is nice and all, what really makes Germany great for fathers is the Father's Day party.

Vatertag (also known as Männertag) is celebrated every year on Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter. Originally a religious festival, today Father's Day is a booze-soaked celebration of everything manly. German men of all ages spend the day hiking through town and country pulling large wagons (Bollerwagen) filled with beer or wine (depending on the region), and consuming their precious cargo in large quantities. Der Spiegel warns that people in Germany on Father's Day should expect "grown men slumped against lampposts, or lolling dazed and confused in wooden carts, clutching barrels of beer."

So, who's moving to Germany?



How Iran's Next President Sees the Country's Nuclear Program

Residents of Tehran are celebrating in the streets tonight.

Earlier on Saturday, Iran's interior minister confirmed that Hassan Rowhani had secured an outright majority in presidential elections, eliminating the need for a run-off. Rowhani trounced the competition, securing just over 50 percent of the vote and beating his nearest rival by a three to one margin.

Taken together with Saeed Jalili's third place finish -- he was the Ayatollah's preferred candidate -- Rowhani's victory sends a strong message of discontent to Iran's ruling clerics and serves as a reminder that the reformist sentiment that brought thousands into the streets following the hotly contested election in 2009 has not faded. Though Rowhani was not the most progressive candidate to throw his hat into the ring, he at least pledged to break somewhat with the prevailing orthodoxy.

To get a sense of what Iranians are thinking about this election, consider this: Tonight, the residents of Tehran were chanting the name of Mir Mousavi, the candidate who lost the 2009 election:


With Iran still at loggerheads with the international community over its nuclear program, the big question on every Iran-watcher's mind now is whether Rowhani may abandon his predecessor's hardline stance in nuclear  negotiations.

Though Rowhani's plans for the program remain largely a mystery, a fascinating speech he delivered sometime between October and November 2004 offers some insight as to his thinking about the program and how his country deals with the West.

For those seeking a diplomatic resolution to the stand-off, the speech offers both good and bad news. On the one hand, Rowhani argues that Iran should engage more directly with the West through diplomatic channels. On the other hand, he observes that Iran's strategy of slow-playing the West through negotiations while covertly developing its nuclear program has largely served the country well.

Iran's technical progress, he observed in the speech, "is good for our international reputation and shows that we have made good technological progress and have been successful in the area of technology .... It is going to be a very effective and important statement." The very same progress, Rowhani continued, is the key to Iran gaining the international acceptance it so desperately desires: "If one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice -- that we do possess the technology -- then the situation will be different. The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them. Our problem is that we have not achieved either one, but we are standing at the threshold."

Much of the technical progress that Rowhani praises in fact occurred while the Iranians pretended to be making nice with Western diplomats. Rowhani reveals that Iran's chief goal in negotiations was to at all costs avoid being referred to the U.N. Security Council, and to that end, the country's diplomats pursued a stalling tactic, dragging out talks and negotiations while Iran's scientists worked feverishly behind closed doors. In a telling revelation, Rowhani says that Iranian diplomats only agreed to concessions in areas not beset by technical problems.

This strategy, Rowhani believes, served the country well: "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan.... in fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan. Today, we can convert yellowcake into UF4 and UF6, and this is a very important matter." UF4 and UF6 -- uranium tetraflouride and uranium hexaflouride, respectively -- are two important materials in the nuclear enrichment process.

There is nothing to indicate in the speech that Rowhani thinks Iran should abandon its nuclear program; rather, his focus on how to best manage the international community and the domestic Iranian population. As soon as Iran has mastered the enrichment process, Rowhani observes, "a country that can enright uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent." (90 percent is weapons grade.) This suggests that Rowhani believes the issue may be settled -- Iran has already achieved 3.5 percent enrichment -- and that the challenge lies in its efforts abroad. Equally important, Rowhani observes, is maintaining domestic support for the program, which as Chen Kane, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, observes in the accompanying analysis, represents a surprising concern at the highest levels of Iranian politics.

Rowhani is nothing if not an expert on Iran's nuclear program -- he says he led a mid-2003 interagency review of the program and served as the chief nuclear negotiator from October 2003 to August 2005  -- and he also has a clear sense of how to navigate the international waters. By exploiting the differences in the negotiating positions of the major diplomatic powers -- the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany -- Rowhani says Iran can secure protection at the Security Council in the form of a guaranteed veto. Which is exactly what it has often received from China and Russia.

It has to be noted that Rowhani did not advocate in the speech that Iran should pursue a nuclear bomb -- though the possibility of doing so was certainly hinted at in his references to 90 percent enrichment. "As for building the atomic bomb, we never wanted to move in that direction and we have not yet completely developed our fuel cycle capability," Rowhani says. "This also happens to be our main problem."

In Rowhani, Iranians have elected a man well-versed in the country's nuclear program and a man who clearly wants to improve relations with the West.

But to what end is not entirely clear.