Of Stepping Stones and Mommy Tracks: Legislation and Mother’s Transition from Part-Time to Full-Time Employment in East and West Germany

Uta Brehm , Federal Institute for Population Research
Linda Lux, Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)

In Western countries, many mothers seem to pursue a “mommy track” into long-lasting part-time employment upon childbirth – which goes along with many negative outcomes on individual and societal level. This mommy track is contingent on societal and legislative developments. What remains unclear is, however, how these developments affect the role of part-time employment as stepping stone or hindrance to mothers’ full-time labor market participation. To further research accordingly, we analyze upgrades in working hours from part-time to full-time employment in Germany. The country is cross-sectionally and longitudinally heterogeneous regarding family policies, child care availability and the prevalence of part-time employment. Mothers in West Germany, who look back at a history of a traditional gender culture, appear rather tenacious in their behavior, despite evermore reconciliation-friendly family policies and increasingly accessible and normal part-time employment. Child care for toddlers is rejected, while for kindergartners it is accepted and utilized for the sake of topping up working hours. East German women, in contrast, seem to adapt to reconciliation-friendly policies and the expansion of full-time child care. Coming from a tradition of full-time employed mothers, the increasing part-time employment rate seems to reflect a hindrance rather than a stepping stone to full-time employment. Overall, the findings show that the regional context influences if societal or legislative developments are interpreted as stepping stones or retardants to topping up working hours: while West German mothers seem to be quite selective in what they seize as opportunities, East German mothers appear to adapt to external changes.

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 Presented in Session 46. Policies on Parental Leave