Parenthood affects women's careers more than men's

Mothers are given the care of children and running the household, and men are given professional activity that provides for the needs of the family: is this gender division ancient history? Not really, if we look at the latest results of the DREES (Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics) study, published on March 5.

Situations that sometimes suffered from a lack of custody resolution

Thus, in 42% of couples with at least one child under the age of six, it is the woman who leaves her professional life in order to devote herself to the children, be it reduced working hours or cessation of activities. As for fathers, there are far fewer who put their careers on hold (this concerns only 8% of couples).

If 31% of mothers questioned in the survey do not have a permanent job for reasons related to their child(ren), in this case only 5% of fathers do. The situations they suffer when they are connected to the absence of a solution for child care (which concerns 18% of couples with a child under 3 years old): “This unselected parental care is mainly provided by mothers: they spend an average of 22 hours alone with a child of 8 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, compared to less than 5 hours for fathers,” the study authors note.

Figures that reflect the work of the winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics, Claudia Goldin, who pointed out that motherhood is the main vector of occupational inequality between men and women.

Slow evolution towards gender equality

To nuance the picture, the study highlights the slow evolution towards greater professional equality: in 2002, only 36% of couples with children had a similar employment situation for men and women. In 2021, on the day of the survey, 50% of couples had the same employment situation of father/mother. “The trend of closer employment situations in couples mainly arose through greater investment of mothers in the professional sphere, with very little change on the part of fathers. However, the greater participation of fathers in the family sphere is an important lever for achieving the goal of equality between women and men”, the authors comment.

Note that these figures do not take into account the effects of the extension of paternity leave, which has increased to 25 calendar days from summer 2021 (in addition to three days of maternity leave). And what could be further developed in the future of maternity leave, the government announced. The European directive on salary transparency, which must be transposed into French law by June 7, 2026, should contribute to reducing the gender pay gap.

Divergences related to social category

Finally, the study points out that situations differ greatly depending on the social category of female workers: employed or employed mothers are further away from employment than mothers who are managers or who perform a more intellectual occupation. The former are less often employed full-time (44%) than the latter (74%), and when they are not, they are more often unemployed (62%) than the latter, who can more easily decide on a specific time. partially (58%).

These differences are particularly explained by lower wages and more restrictive working conditions (no possibility of remote work, irregular working hours, etc.) which may justify the tendency of employees to leave their professional activities to take care of their children themselves.

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