Livia Garcia Faroldi (Universidad de Malaga)

"The gap between work-family preferences and employment trajectories of mothers in 12 countries"

27 April 2017, 2:00 pm


This study examines the consistency between attitudes towards maternal employment and the actual employment trajectories of partnered mothers in 12 Western and non-Western countries. We compared what mothers considered the best option (working full time, part time or staying at home) for a woman with a child under school age and once the child has begun school and what these women did when they became mothers. For this purpose, we used data from the ISSP Module ‘Family and Changing Gender Roles’ (1994, 2002 and 2012). We studied the influence of micro-level variables as well as national contexts.

At the micro level, all the variables included were relevant: educated women tended to match their preferences and employment trajectories working full time, although they were also more likely to declare that they worked more than desired, while the opposite trend was found in less-educated women. We also saw an interesting pattern regarding cohorts: older women who experienced consistency tended to prefer to stay at home, but when there was a gap between preferences and employment trajectories these women reported working more than desired. Lastly, women whose mother worked when they were children tended to work when they became mothers, even more than they desired. 

At the macro level, we found significant variations in the percentage of mothers who matched what they considered ideal with what they actually did: from less than 20% in Russia to more than two thirds in Great Britain. Women living in ex-socialist countries reported more frequently that they worked more than desired, in contrast to mothers in conservative welfare regimes (such as Japan, West Germany and, particularly, Spain), who declared that they worked less than desired or did not work at all, even if they wanted to.