In this top group, support for family polices such as child care and parental leave has created an environment in which women are widely able to balance child-rearing and careers.
Labor market participation rates by women are high across this group, with child care services widely and affordably available from a very young age. Fertility rates are in general comparatively high by OECD standards, particularly so in Iceland and New Zealand.
Opportunities for women to combine work and parenting are substantial in this group, through hampered somewhat by the expense or lack of child care. Men tend to take parental leave or work part-time considerably less frequently than women.
Child care is subsidized but not universally available in Belgium, the UK, Finland and Australia. Luxembourg has made dramatic child care strides, coupled with increases in women’s employment rates, making it the criterion’s most significant gainer relative to the SGI 2009.
Tax policy gives some disincentive to second earners in Ireland and the Netherlands, hindering women’s full-time employment. Australia passed but did not yet implement a national parental leave policy, while the UK introduced paternal leave.
Fertility rates are comparatively high in Ireland and the UK, while Ireland and Canada retain pockets of child poverty.
In this group, a lack of child care infrastructure or prevailing traditional ideas hinder women’s ability to pursue a career while parenting.
Germany has put a high priority on enabling women to work, with high subsidies for child care and substantial transfers to families. However, the birth rate is quite low, and a child care entitlement for children under three has not taken effect.
Insufficient child care infrastructure is also a problem in Austria and the Czech Republic. Despite high female employment rates, the USA spends little on family policy, with many mothers resorting to low-paid immigrant women to care for their children.
Traditional gender roles remain influential in Hungary, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Slovakia, undermining women’s career prospects. Governments have focused more on providing family benefits than on labor force integration in all three Eastern European nations.
Child poverty rates are at troubling levels in Mexico, the USA and Chile.
In each of these countries, relatively ineffective government policies have done little to undermine the pervasive effect of traditional gender and family roles on women’s employment and life choices.
Deep gender gaps in employment rates and salary levels hold across the group. Paternal leave rights in Spain are little used, while Portuguese employers show widespread unwillingness to hire women who might take maternal leave.
Extended families provide a large share of child care in Italy, Greece and Turkey. Family support policies in Switzerland encourage mothers to stay home with children, while South Korea’s birth rate remains extremely low despite women’s relatively low employment rates.
Within the group, Poland’s new government stands out as most improved relative to the SGI 2009, using EU funds to expand child care availability and implementing a paternal leave program.