Behind the Work-Fertility Trade-off: Women, Work and Transitions
In this third decade of the 21st century, discussion of women’s labour-force participation and its impact on fertility continues. While evidence points to a decline in overall fertility rates in most industrialized countries, a direct link to women’s labour-force activity - the work-fertility trade-off - is not always clear. Cultural, economic and sociological factors have greatly affected the roles women play in society, which have in turn contributed to declining fertility. Another often overlooked factor is the impact of increasingly longer and complex life-course transitions into adulthood which compress the period of fertility. While these topics have often been discussed in isolation, this paper synthesizes these topics in a demographic overview of women’s changing roles. The current pandemic with its impact on labour-force activity (dubbed the “she-cession”) and associated declines in fertility has driven home the need for supportive social policies that can contribute to balancing the earning and unpaid caring roles by enhancing the ability of women to engage in the labour force and meet their fertility aspirations.
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