Maternity and working life: reconsidering the effectiveness of part-time employment
The way in which professional and familiar life are reconciled might have important economic consequences both at individual and aggregate level. While as a flexible form of employment, part-time work may serve to reconcile professional and family life and increase female participation in the labour market, it can also give rise to new forms of inequality, thereby undermining the equal opportunities objectives established by the EU social policy. Creating substantive equality between part- and full-time workers and achieving gender neutrality means, above all, to ensure that those workers who combine part-time work with child care responsibilities do not suffer detrimental consequences in their career prospects. Although several actions at European Community level have been undertaken in the last decade to achieve greater equality between part- and full-timers, there is still evidence of a close relationship between atypical work, forms of parental leave, and gender discrimination in the labour relations of Members States. In this respect, many academic works have convincingly demonstrated how part-time workers are very often at a disadvantage when compared to their full-time counterparts. One disadvantage not explored yet in the current literature is the higher probability of transition into non-employment amongst part-timers. In this paper, we focus on the effects that the existence of differences in these transition rates between part- and full-timers, and the subsequent persistence of non-employment episodes, have on female career prospects. We present a theoretical model that incorporates those differences in unemployment risk and that serves us to conclude that, when part-timers experience higher probabilities of exiting the labour market, this form of employment becomes less attractive for women with child care responsibilities. This might serve to explain why in some countries full-time employment is the preferred option for mothers who want to remain in the labour market.
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