Spring is here, and for many that means it’s time for a spring break! However, taking time off work can be a big deal, and taking a break can affect earnings and productivity. Research shows that vacation and leave time are largely shaped by a countries social and political context, but taking time off work can have serious consequences no matter where you live, especially for women.
To start, vacations take place in the context of larger structures of gender inequality and work/family policies. Mothers’ time in and out of work is shaped by institutional and cultural contexts, including paid-leave policies, state support for childcare, and cultural expectations around maternal employment. When women are supported by well-paid leave, affordable childcare, and a cultural expectation that mothers work, women with children ultimately work more weekly hours than those living in countries without these factors. Even so, time off is not without penalty. Country-specific policies also help predict the penalty women face for taking a break from employment to care for children. For instance, in a comparison between Germany, Sweden, and the U.S. — countries with distinct leave policies — researchers found that long leaves meant career penalties for all women. Unsurprisingly, in the U.S., a country known for lagging behind in parental leave, even short periods of time spent away from work can hurt womens’ careers.
- Irene Boekmann, Joya Misra, and Michelle Budig. 2015. “Cultural and Institutional Factors Shaping Mothers’ Employment and Working Hours in Postindustrial Countries.” Social Forces 93(4): 1301-1333.
- Silke Aisenbrey, Marie Evertsson, and Daniela Grunow. 2009. “Is There a Career Penalty for Mothers’ Time Out? A Comparison of Germany, Sweden and the United States.” Social Forces 88(2): 573-605.