Labour Market Penalties of Mothers: the Role of Reconciliation Policies

_x000d_ Updated version of "What does the Stork bring to Women's Working Career"?_x000d_ _x000d_ A key issue in increasing women’s participation in productive activities is the possibility of achieving a high work-life balance, both in terms of personal wellbeing and in terms of fair career prospects. The crucial event that challenges any level of work-life balance working women achieve is motherhood. We analyse how motherhood affects women's working career, both in terms of participation and in terms of wages, compared to “non-mothers”. The country chosen for the analysis is Italy, a paradigmatic example of low participation rate, scant childcare, high wage inequality and a cultural environment that considers childcare a predominantly “female affair”. _x000d_ While most of the literature focuses either on wages or on participation, we consider both dimensions in a country where female participation is low, thus contributing to filling the gap in the literature of studies of this kind referred to southern European countries._x000d_ We confirm that the probability of leaving employment significantly increases for new mothers (career-break job penalty); however, this is mitigated by higher job quality and human capital endowment, and by childcare accessibility. Crucially, the availability of part-time jobs reduces the probability of mothers moving out of the labour force. _x000d_ Furthermore, women not leaving employment after becoming mothers face a decrease in wage levels and growth compared to non-mothers, and there are no signs of this gap closing five years after childbirth (family wage gap). Again, part-time employment plays a crucial role, as the family wage gap penalty emerges only among women working full-time both before and after childbirth; a part-time job over the whole period or even only after childbirth prevents any wage gap from opening up between such working mothers and non-mothers._x000d_ A decisive fact in this context is that in Italy part-time jobs are (scant but) well paid and protected, unlike most other countries.