Less job security for women? Blame paid maternity leave

by Ilaria Lonigro - 2013.05.02
Less job security for women? Blame paid maternity leave
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Paid maternity leave penalizes women who work. This controversial idea was put forth (and supported by data) in a recent study by the renowned Cornell University in New York. The authors, professors Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, analyzed data on female employment and government policies on the matter in 22 OECD countries. They found that in countries where female workers' rights are more protected, there are also more women not in full-time work (with 'atypical' work contracts, such as part-time, temporary work).

In contrast, in the US, where there is no paid maternity leave, women are more focused on their career and are more often in full-time work. But not all that glitters is gold. In the US, top positions go to women who prove that they put work above all else, even at the expense of their family.

Are there really no convincing solutions to the problem of reconciling family and full-time work?Professor and sociologist Philip Cohen, from the University of Maryland, makes a valid point: he says that some policies for work-life balance, such as parental leave, could even be counter-productive. To support working parents, public nurseries are essential.

In Italy, too few children attend nurseries: slightly more than 3% in the south and less than 17% in the north-east, according to the latest data from Istat. In a country where childcare is almost exclusively the responsibility of the mother (who therefore works 40 hours more per week than the father), it is not surprising that in the workplace women have less job security (35% of women are in 'insecure' contracts compared with 27% of men). More women are also working in jobs they are over-qualified for (52% of women compared with 41% of men), according to the Istat report 'Women's work in times of crisis', edited by Linda Sabbadini.

Published in Gender issues.
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