Combining work and childcare still difficult for women

A special report based on the Czech Republic’s regular Labour Force Survey has focused on work-life balance. Research was carried out in 2010, and revealed a lack of childcare facilities was forcing women to take long career breaks. Women said there was a lack of nursery care for very young children, combined with a shortage of part-time jobs with flexible working hours. Their strategy to cope with this involves a long career break followed by a return to non-flexible full-time work.

About the survey

The Labour Force Sample Survey (LFSS) is conducted by the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) every quarter on a randomly selected sample of private households. It focuses on the economic status of people in the country aged 15 and over. In 2010, the LFSS contained an ad hoc module on work-life balance. The main topics of the survey, Harmonising work and family life, were concerned with the influence of caring for children up to 14 years of age on the economic activity of workers.

The sample size was approximately 25,000 households in each quarter of 2010 – adding up to almost 51,000 people aged 15 years and over. Data was weighted according to the average annual age structure of the population.

Lack of services affecting choice for women

The findings suggested that 3.4% of all those taking care of children (6.2% of women taking primary responsibility for childcare) felt that a lack of childcare services, particularly nursery care, made their professional lives difficult. Lack of nursery school facilities was cited as the main problem. This phenomenon was almost exclusively a factor among women. Men felt the negative impact of a lack of services on their professional lives in only 0.2% of cases.

The decisive factor appeared to be the age of the child. The great majority of women with a child younger than three years of age had decided to take parental leave. However, women who chose this option usually experienced difficulties when they wished to return to the labour market.

One in nine women looking after a child up to three years of age was unable to participate in the labour market, or could do so only to a very limited extent. Based on the survey findings from 2010, it could be assumed that almost 70,000 women had been unable to find a job once the child had reached three years of age or during the child’s school career. The study showed that more than 35% of all unemployed women actively seeking work had young children. One of the reasons for the long employment break was the limited number of childcare institutions willing to care for very young children.

The situation changed significantly once the child reached the age of three. Almost 70% of mothers with children aged between three and five used the services of a pre-school nursery. This was often for long periods of time – at least 30 hours per week – since these women usually went back to full-time work at the end of their maternity leave.

Figure 1 shows the percentage of those caring for children up to the age of 14 who felt that a shortage of facilities had had a negative influence on their working life.

Figure 1: Parents who felt shortage of childcare had made working life difficult

Figure 1: Parents who felt shortage of childcare had made working life difficult

Source: Czech Statistical Office, LFSS 2010

Limited supply of flexible work

The ability of mothers with young children to find a balance between work and home depends to a great extent on the way in which they can arrange their working hours. However, the survey showed that almost three quarters of employed women were tied to fixed working hours. A further nine per cent of women enjoyed flexible working hours, but still had to work a fixed number of hours every day. This meant that more than 80% of women could not flexibly adjust the number of hours worked, nor divide the working day according to their needs.

A comparison was made between the working time arrangements of women with and without young children. It showed that working women with children in the youngest age group had a greater chance of arranging their working time to suit their needs and to enjoy a flexible working regime than other women.

However, the number of working women with very young children is low. In reality, this group is composed mainly of women with a higher level of educational attainment and who hold high-level and often very specialised positions. They are people who choose to accelerate their return to working life.

The research also showed that the potential to adjust working hours decreased with the age of the child. Women with school-age children had practically the same working regimes as women with no children.

Figure 2: Working hours of women aged 15–64, by age of youngest child (%)

Figure 2: Working hours of women aged 15–64, by age of youngest child (%)

Source: Czech Statistical Office, LFSS 2010

Commentary

The Czech Republic has one of the lowest percentages of part-time jobs in the EU – partly due to the low supply of such jobs, but also because wages are low and it is difficult to earn enough income to support a family with the income from only one full time job.

This means the majority of women return to a ‘normal’ full-time working regime with more or less fixed working hours immediately following a period of maternity leave, and makes the reconciliation of work and family life relatively difficult.

References

Czech Statistical Office (2011), ‘Harmonising work and family life’, Labour Force Sample Survey 2010, Prague.

Pfeiferová Štěpánka, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (RILSA)

 

 

 

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