Javornik, Jana Skrbinsek
Exploring maternal employment in post-socialist countries: understanding the implications of childcare policies.
University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences: Sociology and Social Policy,
Access to paid employment has conspicuous economic, political, cultural and social implications, for both personal autonomy and gender equality. Eight most advanced postsocialist countries that entered the European Union in 2004 have boasted comparatively high full-time employment rates for women since the socialist period. However, the proportion of women who withdraw from paid employment when they care for pre-school children differs significantly among these countries. This thesis examines why women’s employment rates drop so sharply subsequent to childbirth in some of the post-socialist countries, but not the others. It seeks to answer this question by exploring childcare policies. The main research question is whether, and how, these policies shape mothers’ employment in the eight countries. This thesis first analyzes the emancipatory potential of national policies on childcare leave and formal childcare service provision between 2000 and 2008, in order to determine whether or not childcare policies provide options for carers to engage in paid employment. It probes the applicability of the varieties of familialism literature to the post-socialist countries, and draws attention to policy characteristics that received insufficient attention in earlier comparative research. It finds that among eight post-socialist countries Slovenia and Lithuania create conditions for women’s continuous employment, while Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia provide financial incentives for women to retreat from the labour force for a longer period after childbirth, whereas parents in Poland, Slovakia and Latvia are left nearly without public support. Drawing upon maternal employment data, the thesis finds evidence in favour of the childcare policies explanation. In countries with gender-neutral leave of moderate duration and affordable, adequate and accessible formal childcare services the employment rates for mothers with pre-school children are significantly higher than in other countries. Such policies are especially important for the employment of low-skilled and low-income mothers with pre-school children, who are usually employed in less protected and less secured jobs. The thesis also suggests that educational attainment and the income needs of households suppress rather than rival the childcare policies explanation, and that the unregulated service markets and day care by other family members account for mothers’ employment in countries with limited state support. The findings in this thesis underpin the importance of childcare policies for enhancing women’s continuous employment and indicate that childcare policies have broader social implications upon women’s economic and personal autonomy. The thesis sheds new light on childcare policies and maternal employment trends in eight post-socialist countries. It helps differentiate their overly simplistic characterization in earlier comparative research, and allows a more meaningful discussion of how childcare policies shape employment practices of mothers with pre-school children
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