Children and Dual Worklessness in Europe: A Comparison of Nine Countries

Enfants et couples sans emploi en Europe: une comparaison entre neuf pays
  • Juho HärkönenEmail author


Parents’ labour market status is a strong determinant of children’s economic well-being, and children living in jobless households are particularly vulnerable. However, previous research has not focused on the association between children and household worklessness. In this paper, I used ECHP data from nine European countries to analyse the effects of the number and age of children on the probability that neither partner of a couple works. Results from random-effects regressions show that children increase the risk of dual worklessness in five of the countries. The effects were particularly strong in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and more generally, stronger in countries with little institutional support for working mothers, low levels of employment protection, and unexpectedly, where benefits were less likely to be means-tested. The risk of dual joblessness diminished with the age of the youngest child in Belgium, Finland, France and the United Kingdom and more generally, slower in countries with a strict employment protection regime and a high level of means-testing of social benefits. Having children can thus affect the labour market position of households, and influence their economic well-being. However, these effects can be shaped by the social policy and labour market solutions countries adopt.


Children Couples Dual joblessness Europe Comparative research Panel data 


La situation des parents par rapport à l’emploi est un déterminant important du bien-être économique des enfants, et les enfants vivant dans des ménages où les parents n’ont pas de travail sont particulièrement vulnérables. Cependant, les recherches antérieures se sont peu intéressées à l’association entre présence d’enfants et chômage des parents. À partir de données issues du PCM pour neuf pays européens, cet article analyse les effets du nombre et de l’âge des enfants sur la probabilité que les deux parents soient sans emploi. Les résultats de régressions à effets aléatoires montrent que la présence d’enfants augmente ce risque dans cinq de ces pays. Les effets sont particulièrement importants au Royaume-Uni et en Irlande, et en général, plus élevés dans les pays qui proposent peu de soutien institutionnel aux mères qui travaillent, où la garantie de l’emploi est faible et, de manière inattendue, où les aides sociales sont moins souvent soumises à conditions de ressources. Le risque que les deux parents soient sans emploi décroît avec l’âge du plus jeune enfant en Belgique, en Finlande, en France et au Royaume-Uni, et en général, décroît plus lentement dans les pays ayant un régime strict de garantie de l’emploi et où les aides sociales sont les plus soumises à conditions de ressources. La présence d’enfants peut donc avoir un impact sur le situation des ménages par rapport à l’emploi et influencer leur bien-être économique. Cependant, ces effets varient en fonction des politiques sociales et des aménagements du marché du travail mis en oeuvre par les États.


Enfants Couples Deux partenaires sans emploi Europe Recherche comparative Données de panel 



This research has benefited greatly from comments by Hill Kulu, two anonymous reviewers, Jaap Dronkers, Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Wout Ultee, Andrea Ichino and seminar participants at Barcelona, Berlin, Harvard, Nijmegen, Stockholm and Yale. All remaining errors are mine. The study received financial support from the Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe (Swedish Research Council grant number 2007-8701) and the Academy of Finland (grant number 117701).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Demography Unit, Department of SociologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Swedish Institute for Social ResearchStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Social ResearchUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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