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Summarise the Journal “Employment after Motherhood: a European Comparison”, setting it in its theoretical context, comparing it with other studies and discuss any policy implications. Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

The focus of this study by Gutiérrez-Domènech is on the relationship between family circumstances and female labour market participation. The aim is to investigate how different policies across countries, affect the employment of women after childbirth. This allows recommendations to be made about which policies should be used. Traditional economic theory on female participation in the labour force suggests that women are likely to weigh up the marginal costs and benefits of returning to employment after the birth of their child. The factors they are likely to take into account are the wage they would receive in employment against any unearned income. Both income and substitution effects will be present.   

It is an extension of earlier studies on the likelihood of employment after first birth. There has been a large amount of research done in this area however; very few studies have included cross-country and cross-time comparisons. Most of the previous studies have focused on a single country. For example Gutiérrez-Domènech (2002) looks at the penalties women face by taking time out of employment to have children in Spain. She states that this paper is an attempt to harmonise all these earlier findings.

Another interesting study has come from Dex, Joshi and Macran, "Women's Employment: Transitions around Childbearing" (1998), a paper that only focuses on the UK. In common with the study by Gutiérrez-Domèneche it studies the behaviour of mothers in the labour market. One difference, however, is that it looks at wage and unearned income as the most important economic influences on women's labour supply. This seems more compatible with traditional economic theory.  Although a similar method is used to collect data as that of Gutiérrez-Domèneche, through the use of a survey, this study does not seem as reliable. As already stated the two most important explanatory models used in this study are wage and unearned income, two variables which she did not consider. This also includes a wider range of factors such as the age of the youngest child and the type of family unit. They find results which are in-line with expectations. Both studies recognise that over time mother's behaviour in the labour market has changed significantly.      

Taking the results of this study allows us to make some policy recommendations. The fact that education seems to be such an important factor, suggests that policies are needed to improve education for women, particularly policies which encourage them to stay on in education.  Clearly for those countries such as West-Germany, who still have a system based on joint taxation; it would be beneficial to move to one based on separate taxation. Another set of policies which would help would be policies to make labour markets more flexible. This study also plays down the importance of childcare policies because this is not a significant factor in the model. 

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