The employment of parents of children in early childhood is a topic of concern in many countries, but in Israel it is of particular importance due to the high fertility rate and high employment rates of parents, especially mothers. International research indicates a weakening in a number of employment indices of mothers after the first birth, which is reflected in a decline in their employment rates and number of work hours. This decline is liable to impact the accrual of professional experience as well as choices in career paths to those that are more family-friendly, despite the fact that, in some cases, this might not be the optimal choice for the mother’s professional development or future professional advancement. The decline in employment data for mothers after the first birth is referred to in the research literature as the “motherhood penalty,” and is considered one of the main causes of gender gaps in the labor market.
A new Taub Center study examines the employment characteristics of parents of children in early childhood and focuses on the period of maternity leave and additional variables that are related to the employment of parents with children of this young age. As expected, the research shows that the employment rate of mothers declines substantially following a child’s birth across all population groups due to maternity leave. Groups differ, though, in their rate of return to work. In particular, the following are some of the key findings:
- The process of returning to work for those mothers with higher education is faster relative to mothers with lower levels of education, especially those without a Bagrut certificate.
- Regarding fathers, employment rates for Jews and Arabs alike are relatively unaffected by the birth of a child.
- For families with additional children under the age of 6, lower levels of employment are found among Jewish and Arab mothers and Jewish fathers. This is less often the case among Arab fathers.
- The well-known correlation between level of education and employment is more significant among mothers, and especially among Arab mothers.