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A Family Leave Length Trade-off? Women’s Labour Force Status in Comparative Perspective
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0365-1904
2019 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A frequently cited aim of parental leave policies is to provide parents with the opportunity to combine work and family. The availability of additional childcare leaves prolongs mothers’ time out of the labour market, however, and thus may counteract women’s labour market participation. This study is the first to differentiate between the whole range of labour force status outcomes: employment, unemployment and inactivity. Using data for 20 countries from the Luxembourg Income Study, this study examines the relationship between paid family leave length and mothers’ labour market status. Calling on multinomial logistic regression with country fixed effects, this study finds that the provision of comparatively long paid family leave is associated with increased unemployment risks among mothers of 0 to 15-year olds. A slight peak when children are 4 to 6 years old and when leave is longer than two years suggests that mothers are most vulnerable when they re-enter the labour market after a longer leave. These results are in line with prominent theories of human capital depreciation, signalling or statistical discrimination. Leaves of over one year, on the other hand, are associated with reduced inactivity amongst mothers. Hence, results indicate a trade-off when it comes to leave length. Shorter leaves are associated with mothers dropping out of the labour market, especially when children are young, while longer family leaves are associated with increased unemployment risks.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2019. , p. 34
Series
Stockholm Research Reports in Demography, ISSN 0281-8728, E-ISSN 2002-617X ; 2019:21
Keywords [en]
parental leave, family leave, leave length, mothers, labour force status, unemployment, inactivity
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociological Demography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-171409OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-171409DiVA, id: diva2:1341457
Available from: 2019-08-08 Created: 2019-08-08 Last updated: 2019-09-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Side Effects: Unintended Consequences of Family Leave Policies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Side Effects: Unintended Consequences of Family Leave Policies
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The transition to parenthood is a major life event and a critical juncture in terms of gender equality within a couple. How a couple divides paid and unpaid work following the birth of a child has long lasting consequences for their relationship, their economic situation and their children’s development. Family policy plays a crucial part in this process. Today, job protected family leaves – maternity-, paternity-, parental- and/or childcare leave – are available across most developed countries to support parents in combining work and family and to enhance gender equality. However, there exists large variation in provision and leave lengths across countries, as well as disparities in take-up within countries. Further, different types of family leaves share different aims that may be contradictory. Whether family leaves achieve their stated objectives, or whether they produce unintended consequences or ‘side effects’ is an important part of policy research.

This dissertation consists of an introductory chapter, followed by four empirical studies which analyse the consequences of family leave. The dissertation departs from a comparative study, before the case of Finland is investigated in the remaining three studies. Two main questions are addressed throughout this dissertation. First, do family leave policies have unintended consequences in terms of labour market and family outcomes? Second, are individuals with specific characteristics disproportionately advantaged or disadvantaged by family leave?

Comparing 20 countries, Study I analyses the association between paid family leave length and mother’s labour force status. Existing research has yet to distinguish between the non-employment categories: unemployed and inactive. Results point towards a trade-off where longer leaves are associated with higher unemployment risks, while shorter leaves are associated with higher inactivity among mothers.

Study II investigates whether single mothers are disproportionately disadvantaged by longer family leave compared to partnered mothers in Finland. This study finds heterogeneous leave consequences in terms of unemployment risks to single mothers’ detriment, which are not merely due to selection, but potentially due to discrimination or work-family reconciliation problems. No differences in earnings consequences were found for partnered and single mothers, however, conditional on being employed.

Turning to fathers, Study III examines whether fathers’ fears of economic penalties when taking leave are justified. Assessing penalties across fathers’ wage distribution, this study finds that only fathers at the lower end of the distribution face wage penalties, while fathers at the upper end of the distribution show wage premiums. The study concludes that even some progressive policies fail to address the disproportional penalties among the least-advantaged fathers.

Study IV turns to family outcomes and examines whether childcare leave affects family stability in the short and long run. Results suggest lower union dissolution risks during take-up but not thereafter, and indicate that the temporary gendered division of labour and income loss of mothers may lead to postponement of separation.

Family leave policies are an important part of gender egalitarian policy schemes with great advantages. Nevertheless, this dissertation shows that family leave policies may have unintended consequences. Family leave can affect family stability temporarily, while lengthy family leaves lead to negative labour market effects for both men and women and can reproduce social inequality. Unintended consequences and disproportional disadvantages need to be evaluated in order to develop more universal and socially just forms of family leave.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, 2019
Series
Dissertation series / Stockholm University Demography Unit, ISSN 1404-2304 ; 18
Keywords
family leave, family policy, unintended consequences, labour market, mothers, fathers, gender equality, Finland
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociological Demography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-171410 (URN)978-91-7797-656-1 (ISBN)978-91-7797-657-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-09-27, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-09-04 Created: 2019-08-08 Last updated: 2019-08-21Bibliographically approved

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