New research released on parenthood and labour market outcomes

New research released today confirms balancing parenthood and paid work in New Zealand is still highly gendered and over time, this can lead to substantive differences in employment and earnings between mothers and father. The research, Parenthood and Labour Market Outcomes, commissioned by the Ministry for Women and undertaken by researchers from AUT and the Motu Institute, explores the impact of having children on women’s employment.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Women who return to work after becoming parents earn hourly wages that are 4.4 percent lower on average than the wages they would have earned had they not had their children. Women who are away from work for over a year experience an 8.3 percent decrease in hourly wages.
  • Three out of five first-time mothers do some paid work by their child’s first birthday.
  • Mothers who take less than 6 months off work have the highest median hours (30), while women returning later work a median of 27 hours.
  • Women with higher income before having children return more quickly to work.
  • Longer absences decrease women’s ability to secure higher paying work, regardless of previous employment, education, and earnings.
  • Women on low incomes before childbirth are far less likely to return to work at all. Approximately, half are not employed in paid work ten years after their first child.

Each family will make decisions about parenthood, employment and childcare, based on their own situation and preferences. The findings from Parenthood and Labour Market Outcomes can help parents make informed decisions," says Margaret Retter, the Ministry's Director Policy.

“It could make a difference to women’s careers if fathers dropped 3 hours a week and women worked 30 hours.  It could build a family’s economic resilience and allow more shared parenting.

Employers can support women taking career breaks, especially those wanting to transition back to the workforce, if and when they choose to do that. Employers can have a role, through human resource policies, keeping in touch hours while on leave, and ensuring they have flexible work available for all staff. They can ensure flexible hours are also available to fathers,” says Ms Retter.

The full report can be read on here.