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The impact of work-family policies on women's employment: a review of research from OECD countries

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All industrialized countries, as well as many developing and transition countries, have policies in place to support work-family reconciliation such as care-related leaves, policies that increase the quality or availability of flexible and alternative work arrangements, and childcare supports. While work-family policies share common elements across borders, the extent and nature of supports vary widely across countries. This cross-national diversity in policies has supported a substantial body of research on the effect of different policy designs on women's labor market outcomes and, increasingly, on men's take-up of work-family provisions. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of this research and to draw out implications in terms of policy designs that seem to maximize women's labor force participation, narrow the gender gap in earnings, and increase men's participation in caregiving at home. The paper reviews the research literature on leave policies, flexible and/or alternative work arrangements and childcare supports, and highlights the implications of policy designs for male take-up. The paper then discusses the growing literature on adverse and unintended consequences of work-family policies for gender equality and concludes by highlighting gaps in current knowledge.
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Keywords: childcare; flexible working; gender equality; parental leave; wage gap; women's labor force participation; work-family policies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Women's Policy Research, Washington, DC, USA 2: City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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