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Barefoot and in a German kitchen: Federal parental leave and benefit policy and the return to work after childbirth in Germany


Since 1979 German federal maternity leave and benefit policy has given women incentives to stay at home and take care of their newborn and youngest children. In 1986 this leave and benefit policy was changed in several ways, turning it into a powerful instrument for delaying mothers' return to work after childbirth. Using a flexible duration dependence estimation technique for proportional hazards due to Prentice and Gloeckler (1978) and applied to grouped durations by Meyer (1987, 1990), we estimate post childbirth return to work hazards for women during the federally protected leave protection period and immediately upon completion of this leave period. During the leave mothers are less likely to return to work the longer is the time left in the leave protection period; however, this result cannot be attributed generally to high levels of maternity benefits. When the leave protection period ends, mothers with strong labor force attachment who are still on leave return to their jobs.

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The second author gratefully acknowledges financial support by the National German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) (Grant No. Wa 547/2-1). The authors would like to thank Richard Burkhauser, Barbara Butrica, John F. Ermisch, Joachim Frick, Siv Gustafsson, Philip Merrigan, Johannes Schwarze, Eileen Trzcinski, Jan-Dirk Vlasblom, Gert Wagner, Sheng Zhu and two anonymous referees for their help and suggestions. Remaining errors are of course, our own. Responsible editors: Siv S. Gustafsson, John F. Ermisch.

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Ondrich, J., Spiess, C.K. & Yang, Q. Barefoot and in a German kitchen: Federal parental leave and benefit policy and the return to work after childbirth in Germany. J Popul Econ 9, 247–266 (1996).

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JEL classification

  • J22
  • J13

Key words

  • Maternity leave
  • childbirth
  • labor force participation