Czech study highlights closed doors after parental leave

Photo: Štěpánka Budková

While women in the Czech Republic enjoy one of the longest paid parental leaves in Europe, the generous policy also presents some serious drawbacks. A new study carried out by Gender Studies organisation along with CERGE and Sociological Institute shows that a significant number of women find it impossible to return to the labour market after spending up to four years at home with their children.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
Ruth Fraňková spoke to Klára Kalíšková of the Prague based CERGE Institute and asked her just how difficult it was for Czech mums to return to the labour market:

“Obviously when you drop out of work for such a long time it is not an easy task to get back to work afterwards. And that’s exactly what we see in the data.

“So when we look at women who have a child aged three, which is the time when most women return to the labour market, we can see that a large share of these women are actually unemployed right after they return to the labour market.

“In particular when we look at women with lower education, their unemployment rate at this point reaches 28 percent. Obviously the situation is somehow better for women with higher education, but still their unemployment rate is around 12 percent at this point of time.”

What are the main reasons that lead to high unemployment of Czech mothers? Is it the long parental leave or are there other factors as well?

Klára Kalíšková,  photo: archive of CERGE-EI
“I would say it mostly is the fact that they actually stay at home for such a long time. It is obviously connected to the system of maternity and parental leave. It is also connected to the fact that there is very few possibilities for institutional care for children, especially for children under the age of three.

“So these women basically do not have much of a choice, they cannot really return to the labour market sooner. And obviously this long career break then makes it difficult for them to return and they often become unemployed.”

Does that also have to do with the fact that it is difficult for women to find a part time job in the Czech Republic?

“Yes, for sure. Czech Republic is one of the countries with the lowest share of any flexible working arrangement so we really have very few part-time jobs and most women are not willing to return to work on a full-time commitment when their child is one or two years of age.

“But they might have been willing to return to work at least partially and that would obviously decrease the probability that they would become unemployed afterwards.”

There is also a policy in the Czech Republic that the employer must keep the position and salary for the woman on parental leave. Does that mean that this agreement doesn’t work?

Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio
“The thing is that this protection works only until the child reaches three years of age and as I said, many women in the Czech Republic actually stay on parental leave longer than that.

“But some previous researches and also our results actually show that even if the woman has a right to return to her previous employer, the employers often try to avoid this. It can also happen that if you are at home for three years that your position basically no longer exists. So sometimes that’s an issue as well.”