Women lose jobs after having children

  • Women lose jobs after having children
    • Cecilia Machado

      Graduated in Economics from UFRJ, holds a Master’s Degree in Economics from PUC-RJ and PhD in Economics from Columbia University. She is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) and assistant professor at FGV’s EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance (FGV EPGE). She has experience in Economics, with an emphasis on Applied Microeconomics, Labor Economics and Econometrics.

    • Valdemar Pinho Neto

      Graduated in Economics from UFCE. Holds a PhD and Master’s Degree in Economics from FGV’s EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance (FGV EPGE). He works with quantitative methods applied to economics, mainly in the areas of Applied Microeconomics, Welfare Economics, Labor Economics, Development and Econometrics.


The study titled “Women lose jobs after having children” indicates an immediate decline in employment among mothers at the end of their maternity leave, and 24 months later, half of them have left the employment market altogether, mostly at the instigation of their employer. The goal was to measure the employment trajectory of women after they become mothers. To this end, mothers were tracked from 47 months before until 47 months after maternity leave, based on data from the Labor Ministry’s Annual Social Information Report, and this data was analyzed statistically.

It was found that the probability of mothers being employed in the formal job market rises gradually until the moment of maternity leave, and it falls after that. Furthermore, the decline in employment begins immediately after the four-month period following birth when they cannot legally be dismissed. After 24 months, nearly half of women who took maternity leave are out of the job market, and this pattern continues 47 months following maternity leave. The majority of departures from the job market are instigated by the employer, without cause. However, the effects are very heterogeneous and they depend on the mother’s education level: workers with more years of schooling had a 35% decline in employment 12 months after the start of maternity leave, while the decline was 51% among women with a lower level of education. Some companies have allowed their employees to extend their maternity leave for two months. For those who take six months of leave, there is a higher probability of remaining employed six months after the end of their leave (a difference of 7.5 percentage points), but this difference falls to zero 12 months after their leave. This was the first study on maternity leave to produce such a wealth of information on the trajectory of female workers in a developing country. It shows that the job market in Brazil differs from that in developed economies in terms of salary inequality, discrimination and informality. The study indicates that in Brazil, maternity leave of 120 days is not capable of keeping mothers in the job market. This shows that other policies (such as the expansion of nurseries and preschools) could be more effective to achieve this objective, especially to protect women with lower levels of education. The study shows policymakers that the extension of maternity leave in Brazil, to six months, has protected workers who become mothers, at least for some time after their return to work.