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An Internatioal Comparison and Assessment of Maternity Leave Regulation

  • Dorothea Alewell, Kerstin Pull


    (University of Jena, Faculty of Economics)

Provisions for maternity leave are common among industrialized countries, but their institutional design varies distinctly from country to country. Developing our theory on the impact on maternity leave regulations on women's labor market situation, we argue that a woman on leave creates a re-organization problem for her employer. The costs of re-organization will not simply increase with the duration of maternity leave, but display a hump-shaped curvature which peeks at medium-leave duration. More than its expected duration, however, the predictability of leave duration influences the process of re-organization. Employer co-financed maternity pay further adds to the costs of re-organization. We then use this theory to analyze and compare the costs of maternity leave stipulations in the United States, the UK, Netherlands, Japan, Germany, and Denmark by assessing in detail the legal provisions on leave durations, leave predictability and employer-co-financed maternity pay. We rank the countries under consideration according to the re-organizations costs their maternity leave regulations impose on employers and derive hypotheses about the effect on women's labor market situation. Following our theoretical analysis, we review the existing empirical literature on maternity leave: While existing surveys among employers and working mothers are in line with our theoretical considerations, the mixed evidence presented in the existing econometric studies concerning the effect of leave duration on female wages and labor force participation may result from having excluded the issue of predictability of leave duration as well as the question of co-financed maternity pay. We close with (tentative) conclusions for the design of maternity leave provisions, which are currently being discussed and revised in many countries around the world.

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Paper provided by Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät in its series Working Paper Series A with number 2001-02.

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Date of creation: 25 Aug 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jen:jenabe:2001-02
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  1. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "The Economic Consequences of Parental Leave Mandates: Lessons from Europe," NBER Working Papers 5688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christopher J. Ruhm & Jackqueline L. Teague, 1995. "Parental Leave Policies in Europe and North America," NBER Working Papers 5065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," NBER Working Papers 7732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. C. Katharina Spiess & Jan Ondrich & Qing Yang, 1996. "Barefoot and in a German kitchen: Federal parental leave and benefit policy and the return to work after childbirth in Germany," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 247-266.
  5. Marit RÃnsen & Marianne SundstrÃm, 1996. "Maternal employment in Scandinavia: A comparison of the after-birth employment activity of Norwegian and Swedish women," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 267-285.
  6. Ronsen, Marit & Sundstrom, Marianne, 1996. "Maternal Employment in Scandinavia: A Comparison of the After-Birth Employment Activity of Norwegian and Swedish Women," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 267-85, August.
  7. Shelley Phipps & Peter Burton & Lynn Lethbridge, 2001. "In and out of the labour market: long-term income consequences of child-related interruptions to women's paid work," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(2), pages 411-429, May.
  8. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1990. "The Effects of Mandating Benefits Packages," NBER Working Papers 3260, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Joshi, Heather & Paci, Pierella & Waldfogel, Jane, 1999. "The Wages of Motherhood: Better or Worse?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(5), pages 543-64, September.
  10. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1997. "Policy Watch: The Family and Medical Leave Act," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 175-186, Summer.
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