Supporting or Hindering Maternal Employment? Comparing Financial Incentives within Family Policies in CEE Countries

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:42 PM
Room: 417
Oral Presentation
Anna KUROWSKA , Institute of Social Policy, University of Warsaw, Warszawa, Poland
The Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries have often been treated as a monolith in comparative social policy analyses. While there are moderate differences in gender employment gaps of childless men and women in these countries, the picture of employment among parents of young children is completely different. The employment rates of fathers of preschool children are very high in all countries ranging between 84% and 94%, but the employment of mothers diverges from 36% in Czech Republic to 81% in Slovenia. Previous research has showed that there are different cultural, structural and economic factors influencing the gender employment gap in the group of parents of young children. Also the institutional context (work-family policy) plays an important role. However, there are also financial incentives that lie in the rules of family benefits and child tax credits systems, often neglected in  comparative research, but influencing maternal decisions whether to work. In my research I compare these rules in the CEE countries looking for incentives that support or hinder maternal employment. I focus particularly on such pairs of countries that share similar socio-economic and cultural contexts for maternal employment, but differ in financial incentives that lie in the tax-benefit systems and in employment outcomes for mothers of young children. One of such examples is a pair of two, small Baltic States: Estonia and Lithuania. I show that while socio-cultural and structural contexts are more favorable for maternal employment in Estonia than in Lithuania, more generous maternity/parental leave-benefit provisions in Estonia form a strong negative economic disincentive for mothers to work when their youngest child is still in its nursery age. In consequence, the employment of mothers of very young children (nursery age) is much lower in Estonia than in Lithuania, whereas employment of mothers of older children follows the opposite pattern.