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First born in Amsterdam: The changing mother–child setting

Childhood: Changing Contexts

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1419-5, eISBN: 978-1-84950-533-8

Publication date: 14 April 2008


One of the most important changes in the past few decades influencing the way in which early childhood is experienced in European countries is the dramatic increase of mothers with young children who are also active in the paid labour force. The Dutch case is exemplary of this change. Dutch women's labour force participation increased from internationally the lowest rate for married women at 7.3% in 1960, to 32.8% in 1987 and to 58.7% in 2005. The latter was above the average participation rate in the European Union (15 countries) (Statistics Netherlands, CBS, 2006). In addition, the proportion of employed mothers with children below the age of 6 more than doubled in less than a decade: from 26% in 1988 to 57% in 1996 (OSA, 1997).1 In 2003, 90% of women in the Netherlands remained in the labour force after giving birth to their first child, although they worked fewer hours (Statistics Netherlands, CBS, 2006). Children who are born in the Netherlands nowadays, therefore, generally have a mother working in the labour market, who has to organise her time around the triple needs of care, income and professional demands. This substantial change from the situation still prevalent in the mid-eighties, is somewhat counter-balanced by changes in fathers’ behaviour following the birth of a child. While in most European countries fathers increase their labour force participation when they have a child (see e.g. Plantenga & Siegel, 2004), an increasing proportion of Dutch fathers on the contrary reduces it. 10% of first-time fathers reduced their working hours when their child was born in 1997, 13% did so in 2003 (Statistics Netherlands, CBS, 2006).2


Wetzels, C. (2008), "First born in Amsterdam: The changing mother–child setting", Leira, A. and Saraceno, C. (Ed.) Childhood: Changing Contexts (Comparative Social Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 193-238.



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