Family policies don’t bridge gender gaps1 min read . Updated: 08 Dec 2020, 10:03 AM IST
- A study shows Austria’s family policies at workplace, such as parental leave and child care, have not reduced gender inequalities in the labour market.
Childbirth often disrupts many women’s careers. To prevent this, many workplaces give new parents time off or assist them in child care. But a study from Austria finds that generous family policies over the decades had no impact in reducing gender inequalities in the labour force.
In their National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Henri Kleven of Princeton University and his co-authors investigate the joint impact of two policies in place in Austria since the 1950s: parental leave after childbirth and subsidized day-care centres where parents can drop kids during work hours.
Austria gives its workers up to two years’ parental leave, and also spends millions of euros to provide free care to all children upto the age of five.
Indeed, the researchers find that gender gaps have come down substantially in the past few decades. Many more Austrian women work now than 50 years ago. The pay gap between women and men has also come down significantly, to nearly 44%.
But this pay gap could have been narrower if the family policies had remained the same as in 1960, the study finds. This suggests that the policies may even have had a “slightly counterproductive" effect, the authors say.
Similarly, women are found to be spending 40 hours a week taking care of children, regardless of how generous their local governments are with day-care services. Using the Austrian microcensus surveys of 1995 and 2002, the study finds that 70-80% women did not opt to work since they wanted to take care of their children.
Austria has relatively more female labour force participation than other European countries such as Italy, Spain, and France. But as the study suggests, this is not because of Austria’s generous family policies. The finding offers useful insight to the debate surrounding the role of public policy in bridging gender gaps.
Also Read: Do Family Policies Reduce Gender Inequality?
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