Grandmothers more likely to leave labour market than women without grandchildren

| Press release

Women of later working age who become grandmothers are more likely to leave the labour market than women without grandchildren, according to new research from EconPol Europe. Male labour supply, however, does not significantly adjust in response to grandparenthood.

The probability of women aged between 55 and 64 continuing to participate in the labour market can fall from an average of 45% to 15% after the arrival of grandchildren, according to the research. The negative effect of grandparenthood is particularly pronounced following the arrival of the first grandchild and for grandmothers who live close to their children.

The study of grandparents in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland is the first to present evidence on the causal effect of grandchildren on the labour supply of grandparents in a European context. And, say authors Andreas Backhaus and Mikkel Barslund (Centre for European Policy Studies), the results will have an important impact on the design of future policy.

“Policies aimed at closing the gender gap in later working age should take the intergenerational allocation of childcare within families into account,” they say. “Better access to formal childcare, for example, could provide an unexpected boost to the labour force participation of older working-age women.

“These findings do not immediately generalize to all grandparents of the same age due to the quasi-experimental research design of the study,” they explain. “However, the negative effect on grandmothers explains part of the gender gap in labour force participation at later working age.” And, they add, the impact of a demographic trend toward fewer children and therefore fewer grandchildren, combined with improved public childcare provision, will affect future policy scenarios.

“We expect these trends to increase the labour force participation of women who are still of working age,” they continue. “Increasing labour force participation rates of older female cohorts is often formulated as a policy objective in order to maintain financial sustainability with ageing populations across Europe.”

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For further information regarding the paper, contact Andreas Backhaus or Mikkel Barslund:


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