Effects of employment breaks on women’s career

A study carried out in the ‘90s compared data on the impact of discontinuous work histories of young women (up to the age of 36) in Germany, Sweden and the US asking the following question: Does a disruption in work history, be it for family reasons (parental leave or homemaking), reasons of unemployment or any other reason except education lead to a downward mobility in the labor market? Read more

Why employers should fight for parental leave

In Europe, most of the countries offer well over twelve months of parental leave, often fully or partly paid. As this sounds attractive for the parent, it has consequences for the life course. For mothers it leads to a “motherhood penalty”: the life-long income drops significantly. Men are less affected, mainly because they take parental leave for a few weeks or not at all.

Negative consequences in the economic field for the parents need not be necessarily so. Parental leave can be seen as training for the job and therefor an advantage for the working place. I am thinking of the managerial skills that are trained. Parents have suddenly to be able to re-organize their lives.

They have to learn to be flexible, orient their needs to the needs of the newborn. Being a parent means permanent changing situations as children grow up, consequently a permanent adoption to change. As mothers are –it seems to me: worldwide – the main providers of care, they are especially trained.

It starts from the very beginning: parents will be occupied by identifying and fulfilling the needs of the newborn. They also have to set limits. Toddlers have to be looked at when starting to crawl and walk. Later on, parents will take their children to the kindergarten and to school, accompany them to a football match or to gymnastics and music classes. When their children feel nearly grown up—but are not— parents might receive a phone call in the early hours of the morning to fetch them from a disco.

The distance between the family home and the school or the playground, between work and the post office or supermarket and their opening hours, drop off and pick up times, all of these, structure the day, requiring parents to develop strategies for overcoming such space and time constraints.

To balance school requirements with leisure activities and family life asks for coordinating fathers, mothers, and siblings, not to speak of relatives and friends, considering their personal interests. Going out for dinner, attending a performance in the theater, just meeting friends and sit together – all of this needs management.

Parental leave should be considered by the employer as an investment in further education. The return can hardly be overestimated. Parental leave trains management skills. Parents increase their social competence. They also contribute to stability within the job, as parents might be less inclined to change the firm.

Just calculate: what would the costs for the employer to train employees in those skills be, parents gain quite naturally through caring for the family and the children? What would one-year leave for further education in social competencies and management tasks cost if it has to be paid by the firm?

There cannot be a rationale to oppose parental leave, for mothers and fathers,  from the economic side.


Which income models are preferred in European countries?

Who should earn money and who should take care of the housework? Mother, father or both? And in which way?

Researchers followed the opinion on the desirable division of housework in five European countries: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland and Sweden, drawing on data from the International Social Survey Programme 2012 testing the opinion on parental leave and work division. Read more

How policies influence work-life balance

Family structure changed in the European Union over the last decades bringing the issue of work-life balance to the forefront. Changes such as an increase in the number of families where both parents are working, part-time or full-time, an increase in single-parent families, job mobility resulting in a greater distance from caring relatives such as grandparents, all contributed to making the reconciliation of work and family a primary issue. Read more

Is father’s leave effective?

The intention to integrate fathers in child care and encourage them to take parental leave is a goal in many countries. It is, however, realized in different ways: as a ”family right“ where parents can personally choose how best to divide the leave between the father and the mother; as an individual right, which can be transferred to the other parent; and as a non-transferable individual right where parental leave both parents need to take is specified in the program. Read more

When are family policies effective?

It is not easy to say when family policy is effective. What first comes to mind is the question of fertility, meaning that family policy can be deemed effective when it is possible to have fertility rates at a level that comes sufficiently near to ensure the reproduction of society. A more flexible view would be to deem family policies effective when they allow a person to have as many children as he or she wishes to have. Read more

Different family policies – unclear effects

Family policies usually have two goals: to provide the best infrastructure for people to ”have as many children as they desire and to balance work and family life“. This affects the working environment, it structures care provisions within families and targets poverty in (and of) families as well.

While these general goals are consensual in society, they have to be broken down to individual needs. The pluralization of lifestyle does not make the task easier. Read more