Who steps back? Dual-earner couples’organization of paid work and leave uptake after childbearing in Belgium

By Jonas Wood, Leen Marynissen

Although Western countries have witnessed the unprecedented rise of the dual-earner model, the shift towards gender equality in the labour force remains incomplete as division of paid work is gendered after childbearing, and the overwhelming majority of parental leave is used by mothers. Using Belgian register-based panel data for 1999–2010, we assess dual-earner couples’ relative employment characteristics prior to childbearing in relation to parental employment and leave uptake strategies. Multinomial logit models support the microeconomic hypothesis that, through specialization and bargaining, there is less likelihood of leaving the labour force among partners with higher pre-birth wages, more working hours, higher employment intensity, and larger workplaces. Finally, simulations indicate that, at the aggregate level, the impact of gendered pre-birth employment characteristics is not strong enough to overturn gender inequality in response to childbearing. As to parental leave uptake in particular, this persisting gender inequality is potentially related to gendered parenting norms and institutions.

  • gender
  • life course
  • parental employment
  • parental leave
  • work and family
  • Belgium
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