Can one argue that women’s emancipation is completed merely based on the perception that every individual women can make her own decisions regarding employment? And, can one use the same argument to reject a recent dissertation that found that women in the Netherlands face social pressure to stop working after having their first child – or at least to drastically cut their hours?
I think not, but these arguments were actually made recently in the Dutch public debate on women’s employment (). Against this background, a website on Social Problems in the Netherlands, called socialevraagstukken.nl and initiated by a variety of established research organisations, invited me to write a piece based on my dissertation. The piece, which is in Dutch, was published today and can be found online. In line with the goals of the website, I tried to stick to the facts – hoping to counter some fact-free-opinions similar to those reproduced above.
The core of my argument is that there (still?) are systematic differences in how Dutch men and women respond to having their first child – with 37% of first time mothers deciding to stop being employment or reducing their hours, compared to 7% of young fathers.
In my dissertation I found that mothers were less likely to be employed than women without children, which I called the motherhood-employment gap. The size of this motherhood-employment gap was found to vary over time and across OECD countries. Institutional explanations of this empirical regularity were tested. In addition, it was examined how women’s earnings affected earnings inequality between households.
My dissertation led to the insights that reconciliation policies stimulate women’s employment by closing the motherhood-employment gap, increase women’s earnings, and reduce inequality among women and between households. Overly long childcare leave decreases women’s employment, and higher educated women benefit more than lower educated women from (paid) leave. Financial support policies to families with children increase the motherhood-employment gap, reduce women’s earnings, and increase inequality among women and between households.