In the Netherlands, many young mothers work part-time and often earn less than men. “This growth has historically been in this country,” says microeconomist Alex Thelodis of Tilburg University. But that’s not the only reason for the pay gap: time with their partners and children is often more valuable to women than their careers.
On average, you sleep eight hours a day, work eight hours, and have eight hours of free time left. Here you can play sports, go to the cinema or have a drink with friends. This is even more complicated for young families, because parents also raise their children in these eight “free” hours.
There are usually two options here: the parents take turns taking time with the children or they raise the child together largely. “A large part of the Dutch prefer the latter option,” says small economist Thelodis. “But it’s very difficult in practice, because people also have to work.”
Because of this limitation of free time, shared time becomes more and more valuable. Theloudis achieved the exact value in his research Synergy at homeconducted between three thousand to four thousand Dutch heterosexual people.
For example, families with children seem willing to hand €1.20 an hour (10 percent of hourly wage, €200 a month) for an hour with two people rather than alone. Time with children is 2.10 per hour (17 percent of hourly wage, €350 per month).
Not growing on the job
Thelodes explains that people don’t really spend €1.20 or €2.10. “It’s about the salary people want to lose so they can stay together (with the kids) instead of being alone.” Consider choosing a part-time job or turning down a promotion. “For example, a promotion could mean that you have to work in the evening and therefore cannot be with the family. Then many women choose the latter.”
“Women earn less, so sometimes it makes sense that they would rather work part-time than men.”
Alex Thelodes, Tilburg University
Thelodes concludes in his research that it is women who sacrifice their careers. “In the Netherlands, things have historically grown in such a way that women work less. And earn less, so sometimes it makes sense that they also work part-time before men.”
This is also reflected in the figures from Statistics Netherlands. The CBS website reports that 4.5 million Dutch people (ages 15 to 75) work part-time. Three-quarters of these are women.
Theloudis research also shows that young mothers often choose a “more boring” job that offers more stable security. “People sometimes think that the wage gap is only due to the difference in sex. But there is an external factor, such as raising children, that has a huge impact on the wage gap.”
Joyce van der Weijn, board member of the Dutch Council of Women (NVR), believes that women’s career choices are often externally influenced. “Part-time work is often expected from the community. Childcare usually calls on the mother first. When applying for a child, people are sometimes also asked about the desire to have children, with the expectation that the woman will then work part-time. While the idea is still between Guys, they should bring money.”
In order to change this, Van der Wegen believes that role models are needed that go against these expectations. “Mothers in leadership positions can be inspiring. They are showing that motherhood and work can be combined.” The business owner or politicians should cooperate in this. “For example, convert a leadership position into a sharing position so that two people can work part-time.”
Van der Weijn says this idea doesn’t completely solve the wage gap. “Women are still paid less than their direct male colleagues in some positions. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Bridging the gap with free childcare
For example, the wage gap can be closed to some extent if childcare becomes cheaper or free. “Women work part-time or stop working so they can save on childcare. If it’s free, some women may start working more.”
Thelodes agrees, but adds a caveat. “The time the family spends together remains extremely important. So the effect of cheaper childcare wouldn’t be much. Parents would rather be together.”
Van der Wegen thinks this is a good picture of the future. “My grandmother stopped working when the children came, and my mother worked part-time. How nice it would be if this generation could work for four days and take care of the children with the partner.”