The study, which examined patterns of employment and childbearing decisions for couples over a number of years, found that the relative security of employment in the public sector, together with a more ‘family friendly’ ethos than in the private sector, fosters fertility. “The public sector tends to offer a guaranteed job to return to, a career progression more linked to seniority and more flexible hours and time off to care for sick children,” says Dr Tiziana Nazio, author of the study which looked at the UK and Italy.
She added: “Children are more likely to be born in situations where it is easier for women to move in and out of the labour market, or to reduce their working hours for a period.”
Contrary to expectations, the research revealed that temporary employment contracts, which are increasingly common for both men and women, do not put couples off parenthood. “Part-time employment, on the other hand, has a positive effect on childbirth, which may have been a key factor in sustaining British fertility,” says Dr Nazio who is based at Oxford University’s Department of Sociology.