Italian mothers

OECD Observer

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In almost all industrialised countries, the last few decades have seen a sharp rise in female participation in the labour market accompanied by a decline in birth rates.

Not so in Italy, though, where increases in female labour force participation, in particular for mothers with young children, have been modest, and where fertility has declined dramatically.

These patterns might be explained by institutional rigidities in the labour market, together with characteristics of the publicly funded child-care system. These rigidities tend to increase the costs of having children and to discourage the labour market participation of women with children.

Also, work regulations and wage policies implemented during the 1970s and 1980s increased job security for full-time workers while lowering the probability of temporary or part-time employment, the types of employment that mothers often want.

Adding to the peculiarities of the Italian labour market is the public childcare system, which often fails to provide services that actually assist families with working mothers. The number of children under 3 years old accepted and the daily hours offered are both very limited, meaning that for women working full-time, public child care is often not an option. For Italian women, working and having children are often two mutually exclusive pursuits.

©OECD Observer No 237, May 2003




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