Date Published: 29 November 2009

Public sector workers ‘more likely to have baby due to family-friendly policies'

Health News from Oxford University, England (UK).

Deciding to have a baby is an easier step for women working in the public sector than in the private sector, according to a researcher from Oxford’s Department of Sociology. The study by Dr Tiziana Nazio concludes this is due to the relative security of employment in the public sector where women are more likely to have a guaranteed job to return to after a baby, more flexible hours and time off to look after sick children. Women in the public sector also feel their chances of promotion are less likely to be affected than those working in the private sector, she added.

The ESRC-funded study analysed three large-scale surveys, up to 2006, of patterns of employment and decisions about whether and when to have children for thousands of couples living in the UK and Italy. While the higher flexibility makes the UK a friendlier environment for both women’s employment and raising a family, the study reveals how in both countries women’s employment is still linked to decisions about having children in a way that men’s careers are not.

Data from the UK was compared to the analysis of comparable studies in Italy, where the birth rate and women’s employment rates are both lower. Working women surveyed in Italy were found to be 30% more likely to think about having or enlarging a family if they worked for the public sector. In the UK, women in the public sector were around 15% more likely than those employed in the private. However, in the UK an even higher effect on the probability to have a child – 40% more likely – was found for those women who had flexible working arrangements, such as part-time jobs or were self-employed, as compared to women working full-time in the private sector.

Dr Tiziana Nazio, from the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford, said:

" Part-time employment has a positive effect on childbirth, which may have been a key factor in sustaining British fertility whereas the opportunity for part-time work in Italy is much more limited, which may be one of the factors in the country’s lower birth rate.

Women are more likely to think about having children if they have job security and flexible working patterns. In Italy too, all else being equal, the decision to have children is more likely to be taken by women who work in the public sector, than those in the private sector. "

Contrary to expectations, the research revealed that temporary employment contracts, which are increasingly common for both men and women, do not put couples off parenthood.

" In both countries there is a strong link between women’s employment and fertility but not between men’s work and fertility. Taking all other factors into account, those households where women are more likely to interrupt their employment careers seem to be those which display a higher fertility. Couples’ decisions about both work and having children seem to be linked to values, beliefs and other characteristics which are not measured in surveys for women, whereas couples have children regardless of men career ambitions."


Source: Oxford University.

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