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Childcare policy and maternal employment

Governments use a number of policies to support young families, including subsidized childcare, provision of preschool facilities, and statutory entitlement to parental leave. These policies affect both the educational outcomes of children and the working lives of parents, especially women, who still typically assume more responsibility for raising children despite their growing participation in the labor market.

  • Motherhood wage penalty may affect pronatalist policies

    If ignored, the motherhood wage penalty may threaten the effectiveness of policies targeting fertility

    Olena Y. Nizalova, May 2017
    The motherhood wage penalty denotes the difference in wages between mothers and women without children that is not explained by differences in human capital characteristics and labor market experience. As part of the gender pay gap, the motherhood wage penalty can represent a significant cost to being female and having children. If ignored, it may undermine policy initiatives aiming to increase fertility rates in post-socialist countries, such as the costly “baby bonus,” which is a government payment to new parents to assist with the costs of childrearing.
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  • How does grandparent childcare affect labor supply?

    Childcare provided by grandparents helps young working mothers, but reduces the labor supply of older women

    Giulio Zanella, March 2017
    Older people in developed countries are living longer and healthier lives. A prolonged and healthy mature period of life is often associated with continued and active participation in the labor market. At the same time, active grandparents can offer their working offspring a free, flexible, and reliable source of childcare. However, while grandparent-provided childcare helps young parents (especially young mothers) overcome the negative effects of child rearing on their labor market participation, it can sometimes conflict with the objective of providing additional income through employment for older workers, most notably older women.
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  • Childcare expansion and mothers’ employment in post-socialist countries

    A range of other policies and changes are needed for childcare expansion to increase mothers’ labor supply

    Anna Lovász, December 2016
    In 2002, the EU set targets for expanding childcare coverage, but most of the post-socialist countries are behind schedule. While childcare expansion places a heavy financial burden on governments, low participation in the labor force by mothers, especially those with children under the age of three, implies a high potential impact. However, the effectiveness of childcare expansion may be limited by some common characteristics of these countries: family policies that do not support women’s labor market re-entry, few flexible work opportunities, and cultural norms about family and gender roles shaped by the institutional and economic legacy of socialism.
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  • Can universal preschool increase the labor supply of mothers?

    The success of universal preschool education depends crucially on the policy parameters and specific country context

    Sarah Cattan, November 2016
    Since the 1970s, many countries have established free or highly subsidized education for all preschool children in the hope of improving children’s learning and socio-economic life chances and encouraging mothers to join the labor force. Evaluations reveal that these policies can increase maternal employment in the short term and may continue to do so even after the child is no longer in preschool by enabling mothers to gain more job skills and increase their attachment to the labor force. However, their effectiveness depends on the policy design, the country context, and the characteristics of mothers of preschoolers.
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  • Parental leave and maternal labor supply

    Parental leave increases the family–work balance, but may have negative impacts on mothers’ careers

    Astrid Kunze, July 2016
    Numerous studies have investigated whether the provision and generosity of parental leave affects the employment and career prospects of women. Parental leave systems typically provide either short unpaid leave mandated by the firm, as in the US, or more generous and universal leave mandated by the government, as in Canada and several European countries. Key economic policy questions include whether, at the macro level, female employment rates have increased due to parental leave policies; and, at the micro level, whether the probability of returning to work and career prospects have increased for mothers after childbirth.
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  • Do childcare policies increase maternal employment?

    Subsidized childcare fosters maternal employment, but employment status, childcare quality, and availability matter

    Daniela Vuri, March 2016
    Women’s labor force participation has rapidly increased in most countries, but mothers still struggle to achieve a satisfactory work−life balance. Childcare allows the primary caregiver, usually the mother, to take time away from childrearing for employment. Family policies that subsidize childcare and increase its availability have different effects on female labor supply across countries. For policymakers to determine how well these policies work, they should consider that policy effectiveness may depend on country-specific pre-reform female employment and earnings, and childcare availability, costs, and quality.
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