Reintegration of work life remains an important issue for Canadian mothers and public policy


Study considers effects of motherhood on employment across generations of Canadian women

Study considers effects of motherhood on employment across generations of Canadian women

Both childless women and mothers of an only child have seen their likelihood of re-entering the labour market after a first work interruption increase across generations, according to a new study. However, their rate of return into employment has grown significantly more than that of mothers of two or more children, whose rate has also increased but at a slower pace.

“These results suggest that the changes in the behaviour of women with two or more children could be linked to the development in Canada of longer protected and paid maternal leaves, which have enabled a growing number of mothers to remain at home for an increased time period”, said lead researcher Philippe Pacaut.

The study conducted by Pacaut and Professor Benoît Laplante of l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) and Céline Le Bourdais, Canada Research Chair in Social Statistics and Family Change at McGill University, examined the relationships between motherhood and women’s entry and exit from the workplace, and how it has evolved across generations, by studying women born between 1937 and 1976.

Regarding the likelihood of entering the labour market for the first time, the study found that the gap separating mothers and childless women has remained constant across generations.

“Our findings show that changing mentalities regarding working mothers, as well as the increased availability of daycare services and part-time employment, do not seem to have greatly facilitated the balancing of work and motherhood, at least for women who have children before initially entering the labour market,” said  Pacaut.

These results could be useful at predicting the future behaviors of women, who will become increasingly important as Canada’s workforce ages. The increased participation in the labour market of mothers, who traditionally have had lower employment rates, could help reduce the prospective scope and economic impact of this phenomenon.

“Public authorities in Canada should continue to invest in family-friendly policies, including improved access to affordable and quality childcare and flexible workplace practices that allow a better reconciliation of work and care commitments,” Le Bourdais said. “Policies should also encourage fathers to take more advantage of leave arrangements.”

The study is based on data collected from Statistics Canada’s 2001 General Social Survey on family history and is published in the journal Canadian Studies in Population.

A summary of the study can be found at Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Cluster:



Contact Information

Gisèle Bolduc
Institut national de la recherche scientifique
gisele.bolduc [at]
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