The Czech Republic is a real outlier when it comes to working mothers

The Czech Republic is a real outlier when it comes to working mothers

23. 03. 2023 – Lomond

We have written before about the low unemployment rate in the Czech Republic, and also the fact that it masks a large – and apparently widening – gap between the percentage of men and women in the workforce.

But there is another area in which the Czech Republic is unique within the EU, and it concerns working mothers specifically. In every other member state, the higher the level of education a mother has, the more likely it is that she will be in full- or part-time employment. For the EU as a whole, the proportion of women in work looks like this when you break it down by the level of education:

The exact numbers vary from country-to-country, of course, but when it comes to the proportion of mothers in the workforce, the trend line is the same – it goes up as the education level increases.  

The Czech Republic is the only exception – where the situation is this:

Based on these numbers, the Czech Republic is actually an outlier in three different ways:

1. It’s the only EU member state where a mother with a university education is less likely to be working than one educated up to Level 4.

2. The 67.4% of university-educated mothers in work is easily the lowest proportion in the EU (almost 8% lower than any other country).

3. Above Level 3, the gaps between women with / without children who are in work in the Czech Republic are also the highest in the EU. The 25.8% gap for university-educated mothers is particularly striking because that is comfortably higher than anywhere else in Europe.

Is it possible to explain why this might be despite the overall unemployment rate in the Czech Republic being so low?

There isn’t one factor – the following three things are probably all contributing:

1. A lack of state nursery places

On average across the EU, 35% of children up to the age of 3 are enrolled in formal childcare (i.e. are in nurseries, day-care centres or preschools) for at least one hour per week. In the Czech Republic, that figure is, according to the European Commission, just 6.3%, lower than any other member state:

A lack of state-supported childcare for under-3s – which is generally acknowledged to be a problem in the Czech Republic – will be part of the reason for this.

However, it isn’t the only driver. There is also the maternity leave system which enables many Czech mothers to take three years off work per child, and cultural factors which – and this is not unique to the Czech Republic – promote a traditional definition of the role of the mother in taking care of her children.

2. Not enough part-time roles available

Fewer than 6% of jobs in the Czech Republic are part-time roles, well under the EU average of 17% – a situation which has not changed significantly over the last ten years:

That’s actually not a terrible ratio by Central & Eastern European standards – Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Croatia are all under 5% – and the rate for women in the Czech Republic is more like 10%. However, particularly by Western European standards, that still leaves Czech mothers with relatively few part-time roles available to them.

3. The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is an issue everywhere, and while the situation is even worse in other member states, the Czech Republic does sit in the bottom half of the EU table – which may discourage some mothers from returning to work:

Needless to say, none of this is to make a value judgement on whether mothers should or should not go back to work – that’s a personal choice.  But, at a time when the state budget is constrained and the labour market is squeezed, policy-makers would be well advised to prioritise policies which will help break down the barriers discouraging mothers who want to go back to work from doing so.