PARENTAL LEAVE AND CHILD HEALTH ACROSS OECD COUNTRIES

modified 2018-10-11

PARENTAL LEAVE AND CHILD HEALTH ACROSS OECD COUNTRIES

In short:

this study examines the aggregate effects of parental leave policies on child health outcomes using data from 18 OECD countries1 from 1969鈥?000. Looks at child health outcomes, more specifically, infant mortality rates, low birth weight and child immunisation coverage.

Results:

this study found that the extension of weeks of job-protected paid leave has significant effects on decreasing infant mortality rates (Table 3). The largest effect was found on post-neonatal mortality rates (death rates between 28 and 365 days): a 10-week extension in paid leave is predicted to decrease post-neonatal mortality rates by 4.1%

Highlights:

Maternity leave legislation was enacted as a part of the Labor Standard Law in 1947. It allows all female workers to take paid leave with 60% of wage replacement: 6 weeks of pre-birth leave and 8 weeks of post-birth leave.9 Because maternity benefits are financed through governmental social insurance, employers do not have to contribute funds for the leave benefits (Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan, 1998). The Child Care Leave Law was passed in May 1991 and went into effect in April 1995. It requires firms to allow employees who have children under the age of one to take parental leave and provides the benefit of shorter working hours to employees who have a child of pre-school age (Waldfogel et al. 1999). In 2001, 53.5% of Japanese private companies provided childcare leave, and 56.4% of female workers took advantage of the leave after childbirth and then returned to work10

Using data from 17 OECD countries in four time periods (1959, 1969, 1979 and 1989), Winegarden and Bracy (1995) focused on the effects of paid maternity leave on infant mortality rates. The research results showed that an additional week of paid maternity leave decreased infant mortality rates by 0.5 deaths per 1,000 live births (Winegarden and Bracy, 1995). Although their results suggest a positive effect of maternity leave on child health outcomes, the study did not specify the effects of leave by controlling for other related factors, such as health insurance coverage, GDP and fertility rates.

Using data from 16 European countries over the period 1969 to 1994, Ruhm (2000) found that job-protected paid parental leave significantly decreases infant mortality rates. For instance, 10 weeks of leave reduced infant mortality rates by 1鈥?%, whereas 20 weeks and 30 weeks of leave reduced the rates by 2鈥?% and 7鈥?%, respectively. H

Moreover, with data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 79 (NLSY), Berger et al. (2002) found that early maternal return to work, within 6 weeks of childbirth, has significant negative effects on child health outcomes. In particular, children with mothers who returned to work in 0鈥? weeks are less likely to receive well-baby visit care and full DTP/oral polio immunisation14 in the first year of life, less likely to be breast-fed and more likely to be breast-fed for a shorter period of time.

The main independent variables for these analyses are weeks of job-protected paid leave and weeks of other leave. The variable weeks of job-protected paid leave refers to weeks of job-protected paid maternity and parental leave, which includes family leave and adoptive leave, but does not include paternity or child rearing leave. Because fathers’ take-up rates of paternity leave are very low in most OECD countries, and there are few countries that have enacted child rearing leave in addition to maternity and parental leave, this study does not include these types of leave.

Consistent with earlier research on a smaller number of countries and shorter time period (Ruhm, 2000), this study found that the extension of weeks of job-protected paid leave has significant effects on decreasing infant mortality rates (Table 3). The largest effect was found on post-neonatal mortality rates (death rates between 28 and 365 days): a 10-week extension in paid leave is predicted to decrease post-neonatal mortality rates by 4.1% (Table 5). Comparing the effects of job-protected paid leave and other leave (non job-protected paid leave, unpaid leave, or leave provided at a flat rate without clear job protection), paid leave significantly decreases infant mortality, while other leave has no significant effect

The results indicate a significant relationship between paid leave and low birth weight, an important factor for infant health. Low birth weight has strong effects on most forms of infant mortality, yet controlling for low birth weight does not eradicate the effects of parental leave on infant mortality. This suggests that a reduction in low birth weight does not fully explain the effects of parental leave on infant mortality, therefore, other mechanisms, which may include prenatal care, breast-feeding, leave coverage