Interconnections between mothers' working patterns after childbirth and fertility intentions. A comparison between France, Hungary and Italy

Zsuzsanna Stefan-Makay, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Arianna Caporali, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Research on the interconnection between mothers’ work and fertility has revealed that women’s employment decreases by number of children. These studies have pointed out that fertility stays higher in countries where social policies and governmental programs make women’s work and childbearing more compatible, what seems to be the case in France. In Hungary and Italy, the level of state support to combine work and family life is lower. Consequently, after the arrival of children women’s employment rates decrease much more than in France. Few studies have investigated how individuals consider changes in parents’ working life after the arrival of children, and the ways in which these changes affect individuals’ fertility projects. This paper explores individuals’ attitudes towards women’s work after childbirth in France, Hungary and Italy, and the roles played by different attitudes in determining individuals’ fertility intentions. Our empirical material consists of 121 semi-structured interviews carried out in France, Hungary, and Italy in 2004-05, with individuals in reproductive age, with or without children. We develop a typology of ideal mothers’ work patterns, depending on whether mothers should return to work after maternity leave, prolong their stay at home taking a parental leave, or become “stay-at-home mothers”. We also explore respondents’ expressions of (dis)satisfaction with their actual (or expected) arrangements. Finally, we look at how respondents relate their attitudes towards mothers’ work to their fertility intentions. We suppose that in Hungary and Italy mothers are expected to take care of their children during the first years, while at the same time they are employed. In these countries, fertility intentions may be affected by mothers’ (supposed) obligations to stay at home after childbirth. In contrast, in France, since it is socially accepted to rely on external childcare, the unavailability of childcare may be one reason for renouncing to have a(nother) child.

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Presented in Poster Session 1