Effects of Parental Leave Policies on Second Birth Risks and Women’s Employment Entry

By Anna Matysiak, Ivett Szalma

In this article, we discuss how paid and unpaid parental leave entitlements shape women’s employment (re-)entry after the birth of their first child and the progression to a second child. We compare Hungary and Poland, two low-fertility countries which share many similarities in their institutional, cultural and economic frameworks but which differ in their parental leave provision. The parental leave mandate in Hungary is universal and provides much higher financial compensation than does the means-tested programme in Poland. Our findings show that paid parental leave leads to substantial delays in women’s entry into employment, but encourages progression to a second child: Hungarian women who are on leave are more likely to conceive a second child than their working counterparts. Polish women, for their part, have a higher propensity to enter employment shortly after the first birth than Hungarian mothers. However, it seems that while parental leave payments have an impact on birth timing, they do not influence the quantum of second births. Finally, we find that a woman’s educational level does not modify the effects of parental leave on second birth risks, but has a clear effect on mothers’ intensities of employment entry after leave: highly educated women clearly have a higher propensity for taking up work than lower educated women in both countries.


  • parental leave
  • family policies
  • women’s employment
  • fertility
  • Poland
  • Hungary
  • Central and Eastern Europe
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