Mind the employment gap: an impact evaluation of the Czech “multi-speed” parental benefit reform

Alzbeta Mullerova, Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense

Parental leave is a key policy tool for addressing work-life reconciliation issues inherent to parenthood, among which maternal employment and its continuity. The 2004 Czech accession to the EU shed light on the scope of the employment gap between women with and without children in pre-school age, highest among all the OECD countries (42%). This is due to very long universal paid parental leave: 4 years per child. In order to tackle this gap and to conform to the EU trend, a major reform was designed in 2008, and this paper investigates its effects on mothers’ participation and employment. We use the Labour Force Survey to assess the effect of this reform on maternal employment and activity levels, thanks to a difference-in-differences identification strategy. The reform provided an extensive change in financial incentives in favour of shorter leaves, and we show that effects on return-to-work timing are large and significant. However, if mothers do respond to the incentive by advancing the timing of the return to work by one year, the scope of the effect merely compensates for the massive opposite trend induced by the 1990s reforms, and confirms the heterogeneity of parental leave strategies for mothers with different educational levels.

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Presented in Session 24: Female employment around birth