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Return to work after childbirth: does parental leave matter in Europe?

Abstract

This paper investigates the role of the extended parental leave in the return to work for mothers of newborn children. Exploiting the variability in policies offered by the European countries, the paper studies the influence of statutory leave characteristics—length of the job-protection and payments during the leave-period—on the hazard of returning to work at different ages of the child. Results suggest that longer periods of job-protection increase the hazard of returning to work; on the other hand, providing paid leaves increases the probability of remaining at home during the first year of life of the child.

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Notes

  1. The first country to introduce the parental leave was Sweden in the mid 60s. Only mothers were eligible. Fathers were allowed to share the leave from 1974 (Gustafsson 1984).

  2. In almost all countries women need to be employed for at least 1 year to have the right to the parental leave, in some countries with the same employer. The most restrictive requirements are in Portugal where both the parents have to be employed, while the least restrictive are in Austria, where they only need to show they are eligible for family allowances (De Henau et al. 2008).

  3. Gutierrez-Domenech (2005) and Kenjoh (2005) use a two-step procedure for analyzing mothers’ labor market participation after childbirth. They first analyze a number of countries separately and then explain different countries’ performances by looking at the development of policies over time. Kenjoh (2005) plots the predicted probability of being at work for some “typical” women, with children born in the 80s and in the 90s, and comments how different average behaviors may depend on policy changes between the two decades. Gutierrez-Domenech (2005) takes the coefficients of the year dummy variables from the country regressions (which are proxies for the socio-economic environment) and regress them on a number of explanatory variables, such as female labor market participation, percentage of female part time workers, a parental leave indicator, a taxation system indicator, etc.

  4. Women, either working the previous wave or having worked in the last 2 years, are included in the sample.

  5. German and Danish datasets do not comprise the variable month of birth, Dutch and Luxembourgian datasets do not include the employment calendar, while the Swedish dataset is not a panel.

  6. Income is measured in PPP (purchasing parity power), provided by Eurostat, in order to be comparable across different countries.

  7. All women are assumed to use the basic maternity leave so that they are at risk of working from the 4th month.

  8. Several specifications of the time dependence have been tried. One alternative way of taking into account the age of the child is including age dummy variables. However, including three dummy variables indicating the first, the second and the third year of life of the child would not fit the data as well as including the age, its square and its cube.

  9. The interaction between transfers and second/third year of life of the child have been also included in previous analyses. Since their effects do not appear significant in any specification and do not allow the convergence in the model for highly educated women for the low number of cases, they have been excluded from the specifications shown here.

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Acknowledgments

I thank my PhD supervisor John Ermisch, Daniela Del Boca, Emilia Del Bono, Claudio Lucifora, Carolina Ortega Masague, Silvia Pasqua, Konstantinos Tatsiramos, Mark Taylor, and Francesco Figari for their suggestions as well as participants at ISER seminar (Colchester, 2005), at IZA summer school (Ammersee, 2006), at EPUNET conference (Barcelona, 2006) and at ESPE conference (Chicago, 2007). I am very grateful to two anonymous referees, whose comments and suggestions improved my work, and to Shoshana Grossbard for invaluable advice. The financial support received by Fondazione Einaudi is gratefully acknowledged. Any error should be attributed to the author

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Correspondence to Chiara Daniela Pronzato.

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Pronzato, C.D. Return to work after childbirth: does parental leave matter in Europe?. Rev Econ Household 7, 341–360 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11150-009-9059-4

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