European Journal of Population

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 413–440 | Cite as

Employment After Parenthood: Women of Migrant Origin and Natives Compared

  • Tine KilEmail author
  • Karel Neels
  • Jonas Wood
  • Helga A. G. de Valk


Motherhood negatively affects female employment in majority populations across Europe. Although employment levels are particularly low among women of migrant origin, little is known about the motherhood–employment link in migrant populations. This paper investigates whether family formation differentially affects the labour market position of migrant women and their descendants compared to natives. Using longitudinal microdata from the Belgian social security registers, 12,167 women are followed from 12 months before until 48 months after the birth of their first child for the period 1999–2010. Levels of activity (versus inactivity), employment (versus unemployment) and full-time employment (versus part-time employment) are compared between natives and first- and second-generation women of Southern European, Eastern European, Turkish and Moroccan origin. We find that activity and employment levels decrease to a larger extent following the transition to parenthood among women of migrant origin than among natives. With respect to activity levels, differences between second-generation women and natives are largely explained by socio-demographic and pre-birth job characteristics, while differences between first-generation women and natives are not, suggesting that other factors such as tied migration patterns determine labour market attachment among first-generation mothers. With respect to employment levels, unemployment is increasing more among women of migrant origin of both generations than among natives, also when controlling for background characteristics, which signals differential access to stable job positions as well as to family policies. In sum, the results draw attention to the challenge that parenthood creates for mothers of migrant origin in terms of retaining and gaining employment, but also to the role of labour market entry and early career positions.


Migration Childbearing Register data Labour market Maternal employment Belgium 



This research was supported by grants from the Research Council of the University of Antwerp (BOF-DOCPRO2013) and the Flemish Research Council (G032715N).

Supplementary material

10680_2017_9431_MOESM1_ESM.docx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 51 kb)


  1. Andersson, G., & Scott, K. (2005). Labour-market status and first-time parenthood: The experience of immigrant women in Sweden, 1981–97. Population Studies, 59(1), 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anxo, D., Fagan, C., Smith, M., Letablier, M., & Perraudin, C. (2007a). Parental leave in European companies. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.Google Scholar
  3. Anxo, D., Fagan, C., Smith, M., Letablier, M., & Perraudin, C. (2007b). Part-time work in European companies. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.Google Scholar
  4. Ballarino, G., & Panichella, N. (2013). The occupational integration of male migrants in Western Europe countries: Assimilation or persistent disadvantage? International Migration, 53(2), 338–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bass, B. C. (2014). Preparing for parenthood? Gender, aspirations, and the reproduction of labor market inequality. Gender & Society. doi: 10.1177/0891243214546936.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, G. S. (1991). A treatise on the family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bernhardt, E., & Goldscheider, F. (2007). Gender and work-family balance. In E. Bernhardt, C. Goldscheider, F. Goldscheider, & G. Bjerén (Eds.), Immigration, gender and family transitions to adulthood in Sweden (pp. 95–113). Lanham: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  8. Bernhardt, E., Goldscheider, F., & Goldscheider, C. (2007). Integrating the second generation: Gender and family attitudes in early adulthood in Sweden. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 19, 55–70.Google Scholar
  9. Bevelander, P., & Groeneveld, S. (2006). Patterns of transition: Female native Dutch and ethnic minority employment patterns in the Dutch Labour Market, 1991 and 2002. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 32(5), 785–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bevelander, P., & Groeneveld, S. (2012). How many hours do you have to work to be integrated? Full-time and part-time employment of native and ethnic minority women in the Netherlands. International Migration, 50, e117–e131. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2435.2010.00622.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bielby, W. T., & Bielby, D. D. (1992). I will follow him: Family ties, gender-role beliefs, and reluctance to relocate for a better job. American Journal of Sociology, 97(5), 1241–1267. doi: 10.1086/229901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boyle, P., Cooke, T., Halfacree, K., & Smith, D. (1999). Gender inequality in employment status following family migration in GB and the US: the effect of relative occupational status. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 19(9/10/11), 109–143. doi: 10.1108/01443339910788910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boyle, P., Cooke, T., Halfacree, K., & Smith, D. (2003). The effect of long-distance family migration and motherhood on partnered women’s labour-market activity rates in Great Britain and the USA. Environment and Planning A, 35(12), 2097–2114. doi: 10.1068/a35138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boyle, P., Feng, Z. Q., & Gayle, V. (2009). A new look at family migration and women’s employment status. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(2), 417–431. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00608.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brandt, M., & Hank, K. (2014). Scars that will not disappear: Long-term associations between early and later life unemployment under different welfare regimes. Journal of Social Policy, 43(4), 727–743. doi: 10.1017/S0047279414000397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cantillon, B., Ghysels, J., Spiessens, K., & Vercammen, K. (2010). De sociale gelaagdheid van het gebruik van verlofstelsels door ouders met jonge kinderen. CSB Berichten. Antwerpen: Centrum voor Sociaal Beleid Herman Deleeck.Google Scholar
  17. Capéau, B., Eeman, L., Groenez, S., & Lamberts, M. (2011). Wie heeft voorrang: jonge Turken, prille grijsaards of aanstaande moeders? Een experimenteel onderzoek naar discriminatie op basis van persoonskenmerken bij de eerste selectie van sollicitanten. Leuven: HIVA - KULeuven.Google Scholar
  18. CGKR (2013). Migratie en migrantenpopulaties in België. Statistisch en demografisch verslag 2013. Brussel: CGKR.Google Scholar
  19. Coltrane, S. (2000). Research on household labor: Modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of routine family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62(4), 1208–1233. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01208.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cooke, T. J. (2008). Migration in a family way. Population Space and Place, 14(4), 255–265. doi: 10.1002/psp.500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Corijn, M., & Lodewijckx, E. (2009). De start van de gezinsvorming bij de Turkse en Marokkaanse tweede generatie in het Vlaams Gewest. In S.-r. 2009/6 (Ed.). Brussel: Studiedienst van de Vlaamse regering.Google Scholar
  22. Corluy, V. (2014). Labour market outcomes and trajectories of immigrants in Belgium. Antwerp: University of Antwerp.Google Scholar
  23. Dale, A., Lindley, J., & Dex, S. (2006). A life-course perspective on ethnic differences in women’s economic activity in Britain. European Sociological Review, 22(4), 459–476. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcl009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. de Valk, H. A. G. (2008). Parental influence on work and family plans of adolescents of different ethnic backgrounds in The Netherlands. Sex Roles, 59(9–10), 738–751. doi: 10.1007/s11199-008-9464-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. de Valk, H. A. G., & Milewski, N. (2011). Family life transitions among children of immigrants: An introduction. Advances in Life Course Research, 16(4), 145–151. doi: 10.1016/j.alcr.2011.10.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Desmet, B., Glorieux, I., & Vandeweyer, J. (2007). Wie zijn de loopbaanonderbrekers? Socio-demografische kenmerken, motivaties en arbeidshouding van loopbaanonderbrekers. Brussel: TOR.Google Scholar
  27. Di Domenico, G., & Spattini, S. (2008). New European approaches to long-term unemployment: What role for public employment services and what market for private stakeholders?. Austin: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.Google Scholar
  28. Dion, K. K., & Dion, K. L. (2001). Gender and cultural adaptation in immigrant families. Journal of Social Issues, 57(3), 511–521. doi: 10.1111/0022-4537.00226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. European Commission. (2010). Communication from the Commission: Europe 2020—A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Brussels.
  30. Eurostat. (2010). Formal child care by duration and age group (EU-SILC). Luxembourg: Eurostat.Google Scholar
  31. Eurostat. (2011). Migrants in Europe—A statistical portrait of the first and second generation. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  32. Eurostat. (2016). Percentage of part-time employment of adults by sex, age groups, number of children and age of youngest child. Luxembourg: Eurostat.Google Scholar
  33. Friedman, D., Hechter, M., & Kanazawa, S. (1994). A theory of the value of children. Demography, 31(3), 375–401. doi: 10.2307/2061749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ghysels, J., & Van Lancker, W. (2009). Het Mattheüseffect onder de loep: over het ongelijke gebruik van kinderopvang in Vlaanderen. CSB Berichten. Antwerpen: Centrum voor Sociaal Beleid Herman Deleeck.Google Scholar
  35. Ghysels, J., & Van Lancker, W. (2011). The unequal benefits of activation: An analysis of the social distribution of family policy among families with young children. Journal of European Social Policy, 21(5), 472–485. doi: 10.1177/0958928711418853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Goldscheider, F., Goldscheider, C., & Bernhardt, E. M. (2011). Creating egalitarian families among the adult children of Turkish- and Polish-origin immigrants in Sweden. International Migration Review, 45(1), 68–88. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2010.00839.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gutierrez-Domenech, M. (2005). Employment after motherhood: A European comparison. Labour Economics, 12(1), 99–123. doi: 10.1016/j.labeco.2004.04.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hakim, C. (2000). Work-lifestyle choices in the 21st century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Heath, A. F., Rothon, C., & Kilpi, E. (2008). The second generation in Western Europe: Education, unemployment, and occupational attainment. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 211–235. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.34.040507.134728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hermansen, A. S. (2013). Occupational attainment among children of immigrants in Norway: Bottlenecks into employment-equal access to advantaged positions? European Sociological Review, 29(3), 517–534. doi: 10.1093/Esr/Jcr094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Høj, J. (2013). Enhancing the inclusiveness of the labour market in Belgium. Economic Department working paper 1009. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  42. Holland, J. A., & de Valk, H. A. G. (2017). Differences in labour force participation by motherhood status among second-generation Turkish and majority women across Europe. Population Studies. doi: 10.1080/00324728.2017.1319495.Google Scholar
  43. Hooghiemstra, E. (2001). Migrants, partner selection and integration: Crossing borders? Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 32(4), 601–626.Google Scholar
  44. Hosmer, D., Lemeshow, S., & Sturdivant, R. (2013). Applied logistic regression analysis. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Huschek, D., de Valk, H. A. G., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2011a). Does social embeddedness influence union formation choices among the Turkish and Moroccan second generation in The Netherlands? Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 42(6), 787–808.Google Scholar
  46. Huschek, D., de Valk, H. A. G., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2011b). Gender-role behavior of second-generation Turks: The role of partner choice, gender ideology and societal context. Advances in Life Course Research, 16(4), 164–177. doi: 10.1016/j.alcr.2011.09.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Imhoff, E., & Keilman, N. (1991). LIPRO 2.0: an application of a dynamic demographic projection model to household structure in the Netherlands. NIDI/CBGS Pubications nr. 23. Amsterdam/Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  48. Jeon, S. H. (2008). The impact of lifecycle events on women’s labour force transitions: A panel analysis. Economic Record, 84, S83–S98. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4932.2008.00486.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Khoudja, Y., & Fleischmann, F. (2015). Ethnic differences in female labour force participation in the Netherlands: Adding gender role attitudes and religiosity to the explanation. European Sociological Review, 31(1), 91–102. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcu084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Khoudja, Y., & Platt, L. (2016). Labour market entries and exits of women from different origin countries in the UK. London: Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration.Google Scholar
  51. Kil, T., Neels, K., & De Wachter, D. (2014). Vrouwelijke arbeidsparticipatie en gezinsvorming bij migranten in België: een analyse op basis van kruispuntbankgegevens voor de periode 2000–2009. In F. Migratiecentrum (Ed.), Migratie, Jaarverslag 2013. Brussel: Federaal Migratiecentrum.Google Scholar
  52. Kil, T., Neels, K., Van den Berg, L., & de Valk, H. A. G. (2015a). Arbeidsmarkttrajecten van vrouwen met een migratie-achtergrond voor en na de geboorte van een eerste kind. Over.Werk. Tijdschrift van het Steunpunt WSE, 25(2), 127–134.Google Scholar
  53. Kil, T., Wood, J., & Neels, K. (forthcoming). Parental leave uptake among migrant and native mothers: Can precarious employment trajectories account for the difference? Ethnicities.Google Scholar
  54. Kil, T., Wood, J., Vergauwen, J., de Wachter, D., Van den Berg, L., & Neels, K. (2015b). Arbeidsparticipatie en gebruik van ouderschapsverlof bij moeders in Vlaanderen: een longitudinale analyse. In L. Vanderleyden & M. Callens (Eds.), Arbeid en gezin: een paar apart. Brussel: Studiedienst van de Vlaamse Regering.Google Scholar
  55. Kleinepier, T., & de Valk, H. A. G. (2014). Levensloop van jongvolwassen vrouwen. In R. van der Vliet, J. Ooijevaar, & E. Wobma (Eds.), Jaarrapport Integratie 2014 (pp. 96–115). Den Haag/Heerlen: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek.Google Scholar
  56. Koelet, S., de Valk, H. A. G., Glorieux, I., Laurijssen, I., & Willaert, D. (2015). The timing of family commitments in the early work career: Work-family trajectories of young adults in Flanders. Demographic Research, 32(22)(657–690). doi: 10.4054/DemRes.32.22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kreyenfeld, M. (2010). Uncertainties in female employment careers and the postponement of parenthood in Germany. European Sociological Review, 26(3), 351–366. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcp026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lesthaeghe, R. (2000). Communities and generations: Turkish and Moroccan populations in Belgium. Brusssels: VUB Press.Google Scholar
  59. Lievens, J. (1999). Family-forming migration from Turkey and Morocco to Belgium: The demand for marriage partners from the countries of origin. International Migration Review, 33(3), 717–744. doi: 10.2307/2547532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lodewijckx, E. (2010). Gezinsvorming bij tweede generatie Turken en Marokkanen. Een verschillende start naargelang ze huwen met een huwelijksmigrant of met iemand van de tweede generatie? SVR-Webartikel 2010/22. Brussel: Studiedienst van de Vlaamse regering.Google Scholar
  61. Luijkx, R., & Wolbers, M. H. J. (2009). The effects of non-employment in early work-life on subsequent employment chances of individuals in The Netherlands. European Sociological Review, 25(6), 647–660. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcp002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Maron, L., & O’Dorchai, S. (2008). Parental leave in Belgium and in Europe. Available at
  63. Matysiak, A., & Vignoli, D. (2008). Fertility and women’s employment: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Population-Revue Europeenne De Demographie, 24(4), 363–384. doi: 10.1007/s10680-007-9146-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Merens, A., Keuzenkamp, S., & Das, M. (2006). Combinatie van arbeid en zorg. In A. Merens & S. Keuzenkamp (Eds.), Sociale atlas van vrouwen uit etnische minderheden. SCP: Den Haag.Google Scholar
  65. Moss, P. (2015). International review of leave policies and related research 2015. Available at
  66. Mussino, E., & Duvander, A. Z. (2014). How do immigrants in Sweden use parental leave? Working paper 2014: 2. Stockholm: Linnaeus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe.Google Scholar
  67. Neels, K. (2000). Education and the transition to employment: Young Turkish and Moroccan adults in Belgium. In R. Lesthaeghe (Ed.), Communities and Generations. Brussel: VUB University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Neels, K., & Stoop, R. (2000). Reassessing the ethnic gap – Employment of younger Turks and Moroccans in Belgium. In R. Lesthaeghe (Ed.), Communities and Generations. Brussel: VUB University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Pfau-Effinger, B. (2004). Socio-historical paths of the male breadwinner model—An explanation of cross-national differences. British Journal of Sociology, 55(3), 377–399. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2004.00025.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Phalet, K. (2007). Down and out: The children of immigrant workers in the Belgian labor market. In A. Heath & S.-Y. Cheung (Eds.), Unequal chances: Ethnic minorities in Western labour markets. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Phalet, K., Deboosere, P., & Bastiaenssen, V. (2007). Old and new inequalities in educational attainment—Ethnic minorities in the Belgian Census 1991–2001. Ethnicities, 7(3), 390–415. doi: 10.1177/1468796807080235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pichler, F. (2011). Success on European labor markets: A cross-national comparison of attainment between immigrant and majority populations. International Migration Review, 45(4), 938–978. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2011.00873.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 1–24. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Rabe-Hesketh, S., & Skrondal, A. (2008). Multilevel and longitudinal modeling using Stata. College Station, TX: Stata Press.Google Scholar
  75. Raijman, R., & Semyonov, M. (1997). Gender, ethnicity and immigration. Double disadvantage and triple disadvantage among recent immigrant women in the Israeli labor market. Gender and Society, 11(1), 108–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Ray, R., Gornick, J. C., & Schmitt, J. (2010). Who cares? Assessing generosity and gender equality in parental leave policy designs in 21 countries. Journal of European Social Policy, 20(3), 196–216. doi: 10.1177/0958928710364434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Rendall, M. S., Tsang, F., Rubin, J. K., Rabinovich, L., & Janta, B. (2010). Contrasting trajectories of labor-market integration between migrant women in western and southern Europe. European Journal of Population-Revue Europeenne De Demographie, 26(4), 383–410. doi: 10.1007/s10680-010-9214-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Rindfuss, R. R., Brewster, K. L., & Kavee, A. L. (1996). Women, work, and children: Behavioral and attitudinal change in the United States. Population and Development Review, 22(3), 457. doi: 10.2307/2137716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Rogowski, R. (2008). The European social model and transitional labour markets: Law and policy. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  80. Rubin, J., Rendall, M. S., Rabinovich, L., Tsang, F., Jamba, B., & van Oranje-Nassau, C. (2008). Migrant women in the EU labour force.Summary of findings. Cambridge: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  81. Safi, M. (2010). Immigrants’ life satisfaction in Europe: Between assimilation and discrimination. European Sociological Review, 26(2), 159–176. doi: 10.1093/Esr/Jcp013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Shapiro, D., & Mott, F. L. (1994). Long-term employment and earnings of women in relation to employment behavior surrounding the 1st birth. Journal of Human Resources, 29(2), 248–275. doi: 10.2307/146098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. StataCorp. (2015). Stata: Release 14. Statistical software. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP.Google Scholar
  84. Taniguchi, H., & Rosenfeld, R. A. (2002). Women’s employment exit and reentry: Differences among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. Social Science Research, 31(3), 432–471. doi: 10.1016/S0049-089x(02)00009-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Timmerman, C. (2006). Gender dynamics in the context of Turkish marriage migration: The case of Belgium. Turkish Studies, 17(1), 125–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. van der Lippe, T., & van Dijk, L. (2002). Comparative research on women’s employment. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 221–241. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.28.110601.140833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Van Dooren, G., Struyven, L., & Coomans, S. (2014). National report on the labour market position of vulnerable groups in Belgium. Leuven: University of Leuven.Google Scholar
  88. van Tubergen, F., Maas, I., & Flap, H. (2004). The economic incorporation of immigrants in 18 western societies: Origin, destination, and community effects. American Sociological Review, 69(5), 704–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Verhaeghe, P. P., Li, Y. J., & Van de Putte, B. (2013). Socio-economic and ethnic inequalities in social capital from the family among labour market entrants. European Sociological Review, 29(4), 683–694. doi: 10.1093/Esr/Jcs047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Wall, K., & Jose, J. S. (2004). Managing work and care: A difficult challenge for immigrant families. Social Policy & Administration, 38(6), 591–621. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9515.2004.00409.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Wienke, A. (2003). Frailty models. MPIDR working paper (Vol. WP 2003–032). Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.Google Scholar
  92. Wooldridge, J. M. (2010). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute/KNAW/University of GroningenThe HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations