It is too simple to only think of childcare leave as a mechanism of inclusion of women in the labour market, as it can also be a mechanism of exclusion.
With this proposition I respond to various studies addressing the question whether there is such a thing as too long childcare leave. Moreover, I address how it is possible that I found (in Chapter 2 of my dissertation) that leave increases mothers’ employment, whereas other authors (most prominently Pettit and Hook, in their Gendered Tradeoffs Book) found that leave reduces mothers’ employment. I not only hypothesize a curvilinear effect of leave with short periods of leave improving women’s employment and (overly) long periods of leave reducing women’s employment, but also suggest several methodological improvements.
I tested the hypotheses using the Comparative Motherhood-Employment Gap Trend File on 192,484 individual women, 305 country-years, and 18 countries, combined with country- level data from the Comparative Maternity, Parental, and Childcare Database. The abstract reads:
In Chapter 2 we found that longer childcare leave facilitates women’s employment by reducing the size of the motherhood-employment gap. In this Chapter we follow up on this finding and test whether women’s employment is facilitated in societies with short-term childcare leave but negatively affected in societies with very long periods of child- care leave. We start by stating that this ‘long-leave question’ has not yet been satisfactorily answered. We argued that to correctly answer the long-leave question (1.) the relationship between duration of leave and employment of women should be explicitly hypothesised as being curvilinear and (2.) childcare leave should be expected to affect only mothers, not women without children. Based on this we formulated the long-leave hypothesis: In countries with short periods of childcare leave the motherhood-employment gap is smaller than in countries with no childcare leave, but in countries with long periods of childcare leave the motherhood-employment gap is larger than in countries with short periods of leave. In addition, we argued that to test the long-leave hypothesis one should use data in which countries are observed repeatedly over time, and one should evaluate for the presence of influential data. This can be done using the ‘Comparative Motherhood-Employment Gap Trend File’ on 192,484 individual women, 305 country-years, and 18 countries, combined with country-level data from the Comparative Maternity, Parental, and Childcare Database (Gauthier & Bortnik, 2001). We found that in countries with short periods of childcare leave the motherhood-employment gap is smaller than in countries with no childcare leave, while in countries with long periods of childcare leave the motherhood-employment gap is bigger than in countries with short periods of leave.
The findings, thus, indeed show that long periods of leave exclude women from the labour market, but it was also shown that relatively short periods of childcare leave include women into the labour market. So, leave works as intended, but it can be overdone.
This is a series on the 10 propositions that are part of my PhD dissertation. These propositions are a Dutch tradition to highlight key findings of a dissertation and some additional insights by the author. My dissertation is titled “Family Policy Outcomes: Combining Institutional and Demographic Explanations of Women’s Employment and Earnings Inequality in OECD countries, 1975-2005″ and I will defend my dissertation on January 10 2014. So, this series is also a count down. Find out more about my dissertation.