Academic journal article Population

Effects of Parental Leave Policies on Second Birth Risks and Women's Employment Entry

Academic journal article Population

Effects of Parental Leave Policies on Second Birth Risks and Women's Employment Entry

Article excerpt

Parental leave entitlements are important policy instruments aimed at providing parents with time off work to care for a young child. They include maternity leave, which is usually the share of leave granted to women immediately before and after a birth to protect the health of mother and child. On the one hand, these leave entitlements enable employed parents, and most often women, to avoid the role incompatibility that comes with attempting to raise young children while in paid employment (Berger and Waldfogel, 2004; Thevenon and Solaz, 2013), so should have a positive effect on fertility and women's employment. On the other hand, it has often been argued that generous parental leave entitlements may lead to greater losses in women's human capital and may jeopardize women's employment and earning prospects as a consequence (OECD, 1995; Ruhm, 1998; Evertsson and Duvander, 2011). Against this background, the effects of parental leave entitlements on fertility and women's employment re-entry have been the subject of extensive empirical research.(1)

This research has led to conflicting findings, however, partly because researchers are usually not able to account for a series of country-specific and individual-specific factors that may confound the real effect of a policy on individual behaviour, such as an interaction of the policy with a country's cultural or economic setting, or differences in individual propensities to make use of the policy and adopt a given behaviour. Two methodological solutions have been proposed in the literature to deal with these problems. First, Neyer and Andersson (2008) suggested disentangling the effects of country or region specificities on policy effects by comparing the potentially most similar contexts which display well-recognized differences. Using examples from Nordic countries, the authors argue that we are better able to assess whether crosscountry differences in individual behaviour are due to family policy interventions in a setting which is characterized by a strong "cross-country similarity over a considerable number of institutional, economic, and cultural factors" (p. 709) than in a setting consisting of dissimilar countries. Second, a number of statistical methods have been developed in the field of policy evaluation research with the aim of accounting for individual differences in policy uptake and in the adoption of a given behaviour (Venetoklis, 2002; Blundell and Costa-Dias, 2009; Khander et al., 2010). However, they often require an experimental or a quasi-experimental design or some other special research set-ups which are rarely available.

This article contributes to the discussion on the effects of parental leave programmes on fertility and women's employment. More precisely, following the approach proposed by Neyer and Andersson (2008), we look at how the parental leave payments affect second birth risks and women's job take-up after first birth. To do so, we compare Hungary and Poland after the breakdown of communism until around the year 2005. These are two countries which differ strongly in parental leave programmes but display a number of similarities in their socio-cultural, economic and family-policy related settings. More specifically, the parental leave mandate in Hungary is universal and provides much higher financial compensation than the means-tested programme in Poland. As far as the similarities are concerned, the two countries share the experience of state socialism and a centrally planned economy which organized the thinking and functioning of both societies over nearly five decades following the Second World War. In both Poland and Hungary, the socialist states encouraged women's labour force participation while at the same time supporting the traditional gender division of labour at home. This resulted in a dual earner - female double burden model (Pascall and Manning, 2000). Both countries underwent a relatively successful transformation to a market economy in the 1990s (Wyplosz, 2000), and despite a temporary economic slowdown, living standards improved substantially. …

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