During the various lockdown measures to contain Covid-19 in many countries, schools or crèches were (or still are) at least temporarily closed. This put families under great strain. Working parents somehow had to reconcile work, care duties and help with learning, which was a stressful time. Even if one of the parents is not employed, the school closures have certainly brought with it a lot of additional burdens.
Even in “normal” times, childcare is exhausting. When work and family are reconciled, it often becomes even more difficult. In purely economic terms, parents are often among the losers. Many parents not only have to accept a temporary drop in wages, but they also have poorer career and wage prospects on the labor market as the children slowly grow older. This is also why the actual number of children is likely to be below the desired number for many people. The Austrian economist Monika Köppl-Turyna and other scientists rightly point out that the gender gap in wages is to a large extent a motherhood gap (or more rarely: a fatherhood gap).
How can negative financial effects for parents (mostly women) be reduced? Of course, this is a difficult question. There are certainly many potential reasons. But let me focus on one possible effect. I suspect that an excessively cultivated presence culture on the job market means that employees without children automatically have an advantage. They can stay in the workplace longer and can also work flexibly once in the evening or at the weekend (some scientific work, for example by Marianne Bertrand, seems to support this). There is at least some evidence that in countries such as Sweden or Denmark, where work is becoming more flexible, the mother or fatherhood gap is less strong. In those professions where it is possible, the flexibility of work should continue to advance. A lot of work has become more flexible since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. But this happens under negative circumstances. Many would like to continue to enjoy this increased flexibility in the future in order to better combine family and work. Perhaps some parents are happy (or will be glad) that they can work at their workplaces in the company office again. And obviously, personal meetings and interactions will remain crucial in the future, so increased flexibility does not mean complete remote work. One thing is clear: children are often very lucky for their parents. The little beloved human beings will always demand a lot of time. Certain temporary financial and career-related disadvantages can hardly be avoided and are more than offset by the joy in the children. However, these disadvantages should not be greater than necessary and should have as little long-term consequences as possible for employment histories.
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