Maternity means drastic wage erosion for women in developed countries while fathers face no such costs.
The International Women’s Day has just passed. Many countries, individuals and workplaces, all marked the day. Now, to sobering reality. A recent study shows that parenthood imposes a severe wage penalty on women in six developed nations, while men aren’t affected much. As findings of the study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, an American non-profit organisation, show, in each of six countries, women returning to work after maternity saw their incomes dip significantly. In Germany, after 10 years of having returned from maternity leave, a mother was earning 61% less than what she did before she gave birth. In Austria, the wage penalty on women was 51%, in the UK and the US, it hovered around 40% while it was the smallest in Sweden and Denmark.
The motherhood penalty was the largest in countries where the popular opinion was that women should stay at home with kids. What is also interesting is that public policy plays a big role in restoring balance. Sweden, where the penalty is the lowest, provides for parenthood leave of 12 months, to be split evenly between the mother and the father. Three months are reserved for the father, if it is not availed, it is forfeited. While Swedish men see a small dip in their income compared to fathers from other countries, the dip is insignificant compared to the wage penalty women pay across the world. While it is a fact that women lose out because they choose to stay at home and not work for the period of the maternity leave, it is the fact that society, at large, pushes the child-rearing role on to women and penalises women disproportionately for parenthood that needs to be kept in mind while devising policy to better the lot of women. Making men an essential part of parenting through a policy push could go a long way in addressing this disparity.