Canadian Dads @Home

Although Canadian fathers still devote more time to paid work than mothers, men are taking more time off work to be at home caring for children, according to Statistics Canada data. Specifically, the number of stay-home fathers has risen by 39% in the past twenty years, and the percentage of fathers taking paid paternal leave after a birth or adoption has increased 900% since 2001.

Stay-at-home Fathers

For many years Statistics Canada has been able to provide insight into trends in stay-at-home parenthood through analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey (LSF), the same survey that yields the unemployment numbers reported by news media each week. Unpublished data from the LSF, provided to FIRA by Statistics Canada, shows that in 2009 there were approximately 53,765 stay-at-home fathers in Canadian two-parent families compared to 20,610 in 1976. And while the number of stay-home mothers in mother/father families has decreased dramatically - from 1. 5 million in 1976 to 436,995 in 2009 - the number of stay-home fathers has almost tripled since the mid 70s. In 1976 stay-at-home fathers represented only 1% of all stay-home parents, while in 2011 13% of the stay-home parents in Canadian mother/father families were men.

Number of Stay home Fathers 1976 – 2008  (in single earner, mother/father families with at least one child under 16 at home, excludes single parents and also parents in couples who are unemployed, studying full-time or unable to work due to a disability)

1976: 20,610
1984: 28,725
1991: 43,530
2000: 47, 665
2011: 60,875 

Proportion of all stay-home parents who are fathers
1976: 1%
1984: 3%
1991: 7%
2000: 8%
2011: 13%

Putting the Numbers into Perspective

In spite of these increases, it's important to acknowledge stay-home fathers represent a very small proportion — just over 2% — of all fathers.  In contrast about 16% of all mothers are stay-at-home parents according to the LSF.  It's also important to bear in mind that LFS data produces a rather strict definition of a stay-home parent: parent at home, not looking for work or going to school and no reported income. The actual number of men who identify themselves as stay-at-home-fathers is quite likely much higher than the LFS data indicates, because many of today's stay-at-home parents earn some income. Research conducted by FIRA's Andrea Doucet, of Brock University, showed that stay-at-home fathers tend not to have fully relinquished their ties to the workforce to the extent that many women did in the 1950's and 1960s. In Doucet's qualitative study of over 100 primary caregiver fathers (Doucet 2006) roughly half of the stay-home fathers were actually working to some extent - either part-time or flexibly from home.

And, in fact, the number of fathers working part-time has increased considerably in recent years. The latest LFS data shows that, although the overall number of Canadian families with children under 16 has not changed appreciably since the mid, 1970s, the number of fathers in dual-earner couples who work part-time rather than full-time has increased steadily, from 6,555 1976 to 52,765 in 2010. Given Doucet’s findings it’s safe probable that some of these men spend part of their non-employed time caring for children and think of themselves as stay-home fathers.

This increase in stay-home fathers can be partly attributed to evolving attitudes about gender roles in parenting. However, two economic factors may account for some of the increases. One is the impact of economic flucutations on the employment prospects of some fathers. The number of stay-home fathers actually dropped by over 4,000 between 2009 and 2010, possibly due to improved employment prospects as the economy recovered from the financial crisis of 2009.  Another factor which may explain some of the increase is that women are more likely to out earn their male partners than in the past. In the 1970's about 15% of women in dual-earner families out earned their partners. By the mid 1990's the proportion had jumped to over 25% reaching a high of 29% in 2003 (Sussman and Bonnell 2006.) About 15% of primary earner wives had preschoolers at home in 2003. When families wish to have one parent at home while children are young, the decision about which parent stays home has always been partly based on which partner has the highest salary, benefits and job security. Thus, it seems likely that the increasing phenomenon of the primary earner female partner partly explains the steady increase in the ranks of stay-home fathers.

Men's Use of Parental Leave

The number of Canadian fathers taking paid parental leave after a birth or adoption has skyrocketed in the past decade. In 2001 only 3% of eligible men applied for parental leave benefits (Marshall, 2008). In 2010 30% percent of eligible fathers filed for parental leave benefits, a nine-fold increase in just six years. (Statistics Canada, 2011)

Most of that change is due to a sharp increase in the use of paternal leave in the province of Quebec, where the new Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, implemented in January 1, 2006, introduced "Daddy Days," five weeks of paid paternal leave which cannot be transferred to the mother. And the numbers show that Quebec fathers are taking this leave. In Quebec, 77.6%* of all fathers took paid parental leave in 2007 compared to 28% in 2005. (Statistics Canada, 2011)
*includes fathers who were not eligible for paid parental leave

Men's use of paid parental leave is lower, though still on the rise, in Canadian provinces that do not offer Daddy Days. In 2010 11%of eligible men outside Quebec filed for paid parental leave (Statistic Canada 2011) That's an almost fourfold increase since 2001 when the rate was 3%.

Even men who don't qualify for paid paternal leave are more likely to spend time at home after a birth or adoption than in the past. Data from the General Social Survey of 2006, shows that 55% of all Canadian fathers take some sort of leave from work (including unpaid leave and vacation time) around the time their children are born or adopted, up from 38% in 2001. (Beaupré and Cloutier, 2007).

One more indication of father's increasing involvement on the home front is their use of short-term leave for personal or family reasons. Canadian fathers of preschoolers missed an average of 6.3 work days for personal or family reasons in 2007, up from 1.8 days in 1997. (Marshall 2008)

The growing number of stay-at-home fathers and men's increased use of parental and family leave provide further evidence of the evolving role of Canadian men in the provision of child care. While mothers are still more likely than fathers to be at home caring for children, fathers have increased their involvement significantly, suggesting that paternal care of children has become an increasingly important child care resource for Canadian families.


Unpublished data from the Labour Force Survey. 2011. Statistics Canada.

Doucet, Andrea. 2006. Do Men Mother? Fathering, Care, and Domestic Responsibility. Toronto. University of Toronto Press.

Sussman, Deborah, Bonnell, Stephanie. 2006. Wives as Primary Breadwinners. Perspectives on Labour and Income 7 (8), August 2006, Statistics Canada.

Marshall, Katherine, 2008. Fathers' Use of Paid Parental Leave. Perspectives on Labour and Income 9 (6), June 2008, Statistics Canada.

Fathers and the numbers. Statistics Canada, published online June, 11, 2009

The Daily. July 24, 2008. Statistics Canada.

Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, The Daily, June 27, 2011. Statistics Canada.

Beaupré, Pascale, Cloutier, Elisabeth. 2006. Navigating Family Transitions: Evidence from the General Social Survey. Analytical Paper, General Social Survey, Cycle 20: Family Transitions Survey. Statistics Canada.