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German Further Education Day on September 26: New study shows barriers to further education for mothers

Further professional development is an important factor for employees to promote lasting professional success and secure opportunities for advancement. A new study using data from the National Education Panel Study now shows an alarming trend for the first time: after the birth of their child, women in Germany invest significantly less in their continuing professional development. Men, on the other hand, continue to participate in lifelong learning almost without any cutbacks, even as new fathers.

After the birth of a child, both mothers and fathers reduce their participation in continuing vocational training. However, this change is much more pronounced for mothers. While the decline for fathers is only 4 percentage points, the participation rate for women drops four times as much (from 55% to 39%) and reaches the original level later than for men. This is the conclusion reached by Prof. Dr. Gundula Zoch (University of Oldenburg and Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories), who analyzed data from 15,747 men and 15,110 women who are regularly surveyed about their educational biographies as part of the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS).

Further education takes a back seat for young parents
The study shows that continuing education for young parents generally takes a back seat - but for very different reasons. To compensate for this, Zoch took other changes after the birth into account in the models, for example the increased time spent in the household or changes in the professional situation. Here, too, there are major differences between women and men. While fathers only temporarily restrict their training activities, especially during the - usually short - interruption in employment due to parental leave, mothers refrain from professional training for longer periods.

Mothers refrain from further education for longer periods                              

For mothers, on the other hand, parental leave is surprisingly not the main reason for refraining from continuing professional education. According to the study, the decisive factor is rather that they return to work with reduced working hours and are more burdened by childcare in the long term. Both of these factors seem to reduce the willingness and opportunities to invest in further education measures for a longer period after the birth.

"The birth of a child leads to women continuing to do most of the family work, working part-time more often, reducing their career ambitions, or even being less supported, and therefore being less likely to participate in job-related training. In the long term, this can have a negative impact not only on promotion opportunities but also on job security," says Gundula Zoch.

Childcare reduces disadvantages for women
But how can mothers be better supported so that the disparity between women's and men's continuing professional education is equalized again? To this end, Gundula Zoch conducted another study to examine the influence of the expansion of daycare facilities on the further education behavior of mothers. The results show that a better supply of childcare places reduces the negative effects of childbirth on mothers' participation in job-related further education measures. Zoch points out that family policy measures can ensure greater gender equality in the labor market: "The results illustrate how important the nationwide expansion of good-quality early childhood care services is to reduce gender inequalities in the labor market.“

Original Publications:

Zoch, G. (2023). Participation in Job-Related Training: Is There a Parenthood Training Penalty? Work, Employment and Society, 37(1), 274–292. 

Zoch, G. (2023) Does the Provision of Childcare Reduce Motherhood Penalties in Job-related Training Participation? Longitudinal Evidence from Germany. SocArXiv. Zur Publikation im Journal of European Social Policy akzeptiert. 

About the data basis:

The results presented are based on data from the National Educational Panel Study in Germany (NEPS). As a longitudinal study, NEPS collects data on various educational processes over the entire lifespan. All waves from 2008 to 2020 that included measures of participation in further education were included. The sample evaluated included 15,747 males with 606 births and 15,110 females with 492 births.

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