Published: April 28, 2020

Expectant mothers are disconnected from the labour market for longer periods after job loss, widening the gender employment gap in the short run and possibly the gender pay gap in the long run.

These are key findings of a new Life Course Centre Working Paper that investigates what happens to displaced females and males in the three-year period after job loss. The paper is authored by Life Course Centre Research Fellow Dr Jordy Meekes of the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne and Professor Wolter Hassink of Utrecht University School of Economics in the Netherlands. It utilises administrative data from Statistics Netherlands from 2006-2017 and a quasi-experimental design involving job displacement because of firm bankruptcy. The study examines whether gender-related persistence in job flexibility outcomes, as measured by work hours and commuting distance, prevents further closing of gender gaps.

The results suggest that displaced part-time employed and short-commute women maintain job flexibility, characterised by relatively few working hours and short commuting distance after job loss. Displaced men tend to work more hours and experience an increase of 18 per cent in commuting distance. For different subpopulations of women, their loss in wages is low compared to male counterparts. However, displaced women take longer to become re-employed than displaced men.

Female workers who are pregnant when job loss occurs experience relatively long unemployment. Conditional on re-employment, displaced expectant mothers on average reduce working hours by 15 percentage points and commutes by over 20 percentage points, relative to other displaced women. Even three years after job loss, full-time employed married women who were pregnant upon dismissal are on average over 30 percentage points less likely to be employed than comparable displaced women who were not pregnant. In contrast, displaced men have a higher re-employment rate when they are expecting a baby. Policies to protect expectant mothers against these long-term consequences of job loss could include providing more high-quality childcare and encouraging men to share childcare responsibilities.

Read the full Working Paper, ‘Fired and pregnant: gender differences in job flexibility outcomes after job loss’, here.