IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Will extending the school day lead to more mothers in the workforce?

10 April 2019

Extending the school day can increase the likelihood of mothers starting work if they were not previously in work, new research by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) shows.

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The study, which examines the maternal labour supply in Germany following recent reforms in the country to extend school hours shows that women are 5 percentage points more likely to start work if they were not working before. The sample includes around 1,500 mothers with primary school children in four West German states.

However, mothers with primary school aged children who gain access to a longer school day and were already working do not start working longer hours: i.e. they do not move from part-time jobs to full-time jobs. 

In Germany, the majority of women work part-time and lack of childcare is seen as a major hurdle to increasing labour market participation. The policy to extend school hours was introduced with the aim of making balance between work and family easier.

Dr Nikki Shure, the author of the paper, plans to expand on this research to examine female employment rates and patterns in the UK. 

Dr Shure said: “The results of this study show that getting mothers to transition from part- to full-time work is more difficult than extending the primary school day by a couple of hours. Mothers who already work part-time may have chosen this arrangement for a variety of reasons. Even though these mothers may be better off by not having to rely on private childcare or family members for a few more hours each day, the fact that they do not extend their working hours has implications for the pension system and the gender pay gap.

“Importantly, however, this policy is able to draw mothers who were not working before the reform into the labour market. These findings have policy implications for Germany and other countries. The European Commission has set a target of at least 75 percent employment for both genders aged 20-64 in the European Union by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, integrating women into the labour market will be an important tool.

Dr Shure added: “The results show that policy discussions in the UK about providing free childcare at the primary school level should think about how the length of the working day and the school day or childcare correspond. Extending the length of the school day or providing free childcare outside of the school in a way that is shorter than the working day may only change mothers’ employment rate and not achieve the goal of getting mothers to transition from part-time to full-time jobs.”

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