Women’s employment strategies around first birth in two adverse institutional settings: a comparison between Italy and Poland

Daniele Vignoli, University of Florence
Anna Matysiak, Warsaw School of Economics

The goal of this study is to add to our understanding of how the country-specific factors mediate the interrelationship between women’s paid work, childbearing and human capital accumulation. For this purpose we compare transition to motherhood and return to work after first birth in two countries which display several similarities as well as exhibit key differences, namely in Italy and Poland. The two countries have been both characterized by very low fertility (below 1.4 during the last decade), strong attachment to Catholic values and to the family. Neither in Italy nor in Poland have the domestic institutions, such as labor market regulations, childcare provisions and traditional couple role-sets, adjusted to the women’s increased interest in human capital investments which resulted in strong tensions between work and childrearing. On the other hand, the two countries differ in the past female labour supply developments as well as in the extent to which earned wages satisfy the material aspirations. Piecewise linear hazard models are applied to national data in order to address our research objectives. Our findings illustrate clear cross-country differences in the compatibility between work and family, observed despite the fact that public support for working parents in both countries is equally poor and work arrangements are similarly inflexible. In Italy, paid work and motherhood clearly exclude each other. In Poland, women’s employment seems to facilitate childbearing and return to work after birth is far less delayed. In a search for possible explanations for this state of affairs we refer to cross-country differences in the country contexts.

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Presented in Session 18: Economics and labor market issues