Job stability prior to motherhood raises childbearing intentions.

Becoming a parent is closely related to the housing situation, care possibilities, networks and neighborhoods as well as, and perhaps predominantly, to the economic situation, to the household income and to job stability. Can we prove this assertion by data?

Researchers in Switzerland looked at job stability and its impact on men and women regarding their intention of becoming parents within the next two years after interviews. The study used data from the Swiss household panel 2002 to 2011.

Looking at the results one should bear in mind that Switzerland’s family policy provides no paternal leave and that maternal leave is limited to 98 days following birth.

The results of the study were as follows:

More fathers than childless men reported to have an unstable job, the same being true for mothers.

Additionally, significantly more mothers than fathers reported to have an unstable job.

In a gender unequal society job quality impacts differently upon men than it does upon women. A stable job for women is conducive to planning a first child, but not afterwards since the father is supposed to be the breadwinner meaning, that, for him, a stable job is necessary before and after childbirth.

Besides job quality, life stages influence childbearing as well. Training for a job should be completed by then, for both potential mothers and fathers. Prospective mothers should have a stable job before the birth of the first child, but not necessarily before a second child. If considering a second child, the difference between the ages of the children should preferably not be more than three years.

Interestingly, gender attitudes, and especially for women, do not starkly influence the decision to have a child, that is, both women who are of the opinion that a child suffers if its mother works, as well as women who disagree with this proposition, have the same childbearing intention.


 What does this mean?

Gender inequality is shown by the fact that job stability before and after the birth of the child seems to be necessary for men, whereas this is not the case for women. The age of the parents is also a good predictor for becoming parents for the first time.

Childbearing intentions are closely related to the job situation. Therefore, family policies should concentrate on the situation for parents on the labor market.

It is not easy to influence people from the policy side in their intentions to become parents.

What politics can and should do is provide a comfortable economic situation rather than attempt to directly promote higher fertility.


Source: Hanappi, Doris; Ryser, Valérie-Anne & Bernardi, Laura 2016. The role of attitudes towards maternal employment in the relationship between job quality and fertility intentions. Journal of Research in Gender Studies (2016), 6 (1): 192-219

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