26. March 2024

Why Only Every Second Woman Wants To Work Full-Time As Mother Press release: Why Only Every Second Woman Wants To Work Full-Time As Mother

• Representative surveys of 5,000 individuals

• Increasing hours worked by mothers counteracts skills shortage

Bonn, Mannheim, Germany, 25.03.2024 – Almost half of the women in Germany work part-time, compared to only about 10 percent of men. New research reveals that perceptions of women drive their work-related decisions: Even in a best-case scenario of high-quality, full-day childcare, only 55 percent of women would want to work full-time – 40 percent would work part-time when having a child. These are findings of the discussion paper “Beliefs About Maternal Labor Supply” published by the EPoS Economic Research Center at the Universities of Bonn and Mannheim.

Press release: Why Only Every Second Woman Wants To Work Full-Time As Mother
Press release: Why Only Every Second Woman Wants To Work Full-Time As Mother © Katja Kaufmann
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“We have analyzed the perceived benefits and costs of mothers to work part- or full-time”, says Katja Kaufmann from the EPoS Economic Research Center. “The perceived returns and costs shape the decisions on the amount of hours worked in the job. Our results show that such perceptions are important drivers of decisions.”

Perceived benefits of part-time work
Part-time work of mothers is perceived to have a number of associated benefits compared to staying at home: Women expect to have better future labor market outcomes, such as higher wages or career progression. They also expect a positive effect on children’s skills due to increased family income. Moreover, the satisfaction of different family members is perceived to improve with mothers working part-time.

Perceived costs of full-time work
While a full-time job of mothers is perceived as having further positive effects on labor market and child outcomes, people expect important negative effects for family outcomes, such as the satisfaction of different family members and the relationships between them.

Demographic change and women’s participation in the labor market
However, with the demographic change, the potential of women in the labor market is high on the policy agenda in many countries. Increasing the hours worked by mothers is therefore seen as an important means to counteract the skills shortage.

Policy recommendations
“Policy-makers who aim to make it more attractive for mothers to return to a full-time job, have often overlooked the perceived negative effects on the satisfaction and relationships of different family members”, says Kaufmann. In most OECD countries, a lack of childcare facilities is seen as the main reason for mothers with young children not returning to the job or working part-time. Our results show that childcare does indeed matter. Yet, even with good-quality full-time care, people still think it is difficult to reconcile family life with both parents working full-time. These underlying worries should also be addressed.”

The data
The researchers have surveyed a representative sample of 4,000 childless adults in Germany between the ages of 18 and 45 on beliefs about benefits and costs of maternal labor supply, beliefs about factors such as childcare availability and maternal labor supply intentions. In a separate representative survey of 1,000 individuals with the same target population, the researchers conducted a randomized information experiment to vary people’s beliefs about returns in order to show that beliefs are critical drivers of labor supply intentions.

The presented discussion paper is a publication without peer review of the Collaborative Research Center Transregio 224 EPoS. Access the full discussion paper here.
Find the list of all discussion papers of the CRC here.

Discussion paper No. 517
Project B02


Teodora Boneva, Professor of Economics, University of Bonn
Marta Golin, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Zurich
Katja Kaufmann, Professor of Economics, University of Bayreuth and member of EPoS Economic Research Center
Christopher Rauh, Professor of Economics, University of Cambridge

Press Contact
Sonja Heer
Tel. + 49 (0) 40 82244284

Prof. Katja Kaufmann, Ph.D.
Department of Economics
University of Bayreuth



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