Babies and Bosses - Reconciling Work and Family Life (Volume 2)

Babies and Bosses - Reconciling Work and Family Life (Volume 2)

Austria, Ireland and Japan You do not have access to this content

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04 Nov 2003
9789264104204 (PDF) ;9789264104181(print)

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Raising children and having a career both rate highly as important life goals for many people. Helping parents to achieve these goals is vital for society: parental care plays a crucial role in child development and parental employment promotes economic prosperity. A failure to assist parents find their preferred work and family balance has implications for both labour supply and family decisions. This study considers how a wide range of policies, including tax/benefit policies, childcare policies, and employment and workplace practices, help determine parental labour market outcomes and family formation in Austria, Ireland and Japan.

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  • Main Findings and Policy Recommendations

    This chapter presents the main findings and policy conclusions of the review of work and family reconciliation policies in Austria, Ireland and Japan. It starts with a summary of reform options that countries could pursue to help more parents find their preferred balance of work and care commitments. It then summarises key labour market outcomes, showing that the similarity across countries in overall female employment rates in 2002 masks marked differences in underlying trends and the extent to which these employment outcomes vary with the age of the youngest child. The chapter reveals how workplace practices, childcare policy and tax/benefit policy affect the behaviour of parents who are trying to find their preferred balance of work and care commitments. Notwithstanding the focus on employment outcomes, the review also addresses issues in current patterns of family formation and its impact on future labour supply. In all three countries policy objectives aim to "Provide Choice to Parents", but in practice policies and related outcomes differ markedly across countries...

  • Families and Work

    This chapter discusses parental employment patterns in Austria, Ireland, and Japan. While the presence of children in the household hardly affects the labour market behaviour of fathers, it does have a significant impact on maternal employment patterns. It is worth noting, however, that trends across countries vary. Economic growth has procured a persistent increase of female employment in Austria, where three out of four mothers whose youngest child is in school are in work. The booming Irish economy of the latter part of the 1990s – sometimes referred to as the "Celtic Tigress" – facilitated a rapid change in female labour market behaviour: employment rates of women in their late twenties are now higher than in the other two countries and are double that of Irish women of the same age 20 years ago. The economic slowdown in Japan helps explain the growth of relatively cheap flexible labour (often female part-timers) at the expense of regular employment. As well as providing a comprehensive discussion of employment trends and how employment outcomes vary with the age and number of children, this chapter addresses gender equity issues, summarizes the different systems of public support for parents with children and, finally, briefly considers poverty rates...

  • Balancing Time at Work with Care Responsibilities

    This chapter analyses how workplace practices affect the behaviour of parents who are trying to find their preferred balance of work and care commitments. The chapter contains a concise summary of industrial relations and prevailing employment conditions, which in all three countries, but particularly in Japan, are characterized by a long working hours culture. In practice, this means that fathers in Japan hardly spend any time with their children, while many mothers therefore find it difficult to imagine that rearing a child and having a career are not mutually exclusive activities. The chapter also analyses the duality in the Japanese labour market and explains why so many mothers with older children are in low-paid non-regular employment. The chapter ends with a discussion of persisting gender roles in workplace cultures and considers why family-friendly workplace measures are not more common. In that context, two recent innovative Austrian and Japanese initiatives are discussed which try to tie the concept of family-friendly workplace measures to individual enterprise needs, while also committing employers on a long-term basis. Such initiatives deserve a wider application in Austria and Japan, while Irish policy makers should consider adopting a similar approach...

  • Family Formation

    Birth rates have declined continually over the last decades, while at the same time female employment has steadily increased. Are these two features related? To what extent are pursuing a career and establishing a family mutually exclusive activities, or does dual earnership in couple families lead to postponement of having children or to having fewer children than otherwise desired? What, if anything, can policy do? This chapter addresses these issues . It starts by describing socio-demographic changes in recent years, and the factors behind these changes. It then addresses the changing relationship between fertility and female employment. This leads into a discussion of different policies and socio-economic trends (and theories thereon) that affect fertility behaviour. The chapter concludes by considering what role family-friendly policies may possibly play in, if not reversing, then at least abating the downward trend in birth rates. It concludes that policies that focus on reducing the indirect costs for mothers to work by offering affordable quality childcare, regular part-time employment opportunities and, generally making the labour market more inclusive, seem to be the most promising avenue towards improving birth rates...

  • Families and Care

    Childcare systems differ greatly between Austria, Ireland and Japan, but in all three countries the proportion of 3-6 year old children using some type of non-parental childcare is high, while it is relatively low for children under age three. For very young children, many working parents rely on informal (or formal but poorly regulated) childcare. This chapter provides detailed information on the three countries’ childcare systems, on the use of formal and informal non-parental care, and on recent childcare policy initiatives. It also reviews each country’s system of parental leave, with a particular focus on the recently introduced Austrian Childcare Benefit. The core of the chapter discusses policy concerns and policy responses along four critical dimensions which can be seen as the major targets of childcare policy: to increase childcare capacity, to increase equity among parents, to increase user choice, and to increase service quality. Realising these partly interrelated targets would help to achieve the broader objectives of childcare policy: to improve child welfare, to promote child development, and to raise gender equity and female employment...

  • Tax/benefit Policy

    The avowed policy objective in Austria, Ireland and Japan is to "Provide Choice to Parents", but in practice policies and related outcomes differ markedly. Tax/benefit systems co-determine whether it pays for parents to work, work more hours, work few hours or not at all, so as to care for (very young) children on a full-time basis. The very different tax/benefit policies in the three countries under review contribute to significantly different outcomes in parental work and care choices. Low tax burdens in all three countries mean that work pays for most individuals. However, the intricacies of the Japanese benefit system provide incentives to second earners to keep their earnings at relatively low levels. Austrian policy is most generous in support to couple families where one parent chooses to provide full time care for a very young child, while its tax/benefit system favours second earners in couple families when children are older. Irish policy makers are most explicit in their quest to ensure equity between mothers regardless of their employment status, but reducing long-term benefit recipiency among single mothers remains an important policy challenge. This chapter also discusses employment support policies aimed at re-integrating parents into the labour force...

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