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Are we all in this together? Alleviating the childcare constraint for women in economic crises

Gabriella Cagliesi (Department of Economics, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)
Denise Hawkes (Department of Economics and International Business, University of Greenwich, London, UK)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 1 June 2021

Issue publication date: 18 August 2021




The purpose of the paper is to advocates the use of gendered economic policies to stimulate a post-COVID-19 recovery. It alerts on the risk of ignoring the female dimension of the current crisis and of resorting again to austerity programs that, like the ones enacted after the 2008 crisis, would hit women and mothers disproportionally harder than other groups.


The authors use data from the British Household Panel Survey on female participation and account for gendered constraints and enablers missed by mainstream economics. Using a sequential empirical approach, the authors simulate various welfare policy scenarios that address factors, such as childcare costs, personal and social nudges, that could help women back into the labor market in the aftermath of a crisis.


The authors found that incentive-type interventions, such as subsidies, promote female labor market participation more effectively than punishment-austerity type interventions, such as benefits' cuts. Policies oriented to alleviate childcare constraints can be sustainable and effective in encouraging women back to work. Considering factors wider than the standard economic variables when designing labor market policies may provide fruitful returns.


The sequential methodology enables to estimate current and counterfactual incomes for each female in the sample and to calculate their prospective financial gains and losses in changing their labor market status quo, from not employed into employed or vice-versa. Welfare policies affect these prospective gains and losses and, by interacting with other factors, such as education, number and age of children and social capital, prompt changes in women's labor market choices and decision.



The authors would like to thank the participants of the Sussex Departmental Seminar for their comments and thoughts especially Peter Dolton and Julie Litchfield and the participants of the Greenwich Departmental Seminar especially Ozlem Onaran. The authors would also like to thank the participants at our presentation at the Cognitive Economics Workshop at the King's College London and the authors are grateful for the insightful comments offered by the anonymous peer reviewers of the journal. All remaining errors are our own.


Cagliesi, G. and Hawkes, D. (2021), "Are we all in this together? Alleviating the childcare constraint for women in economic crises", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 48 No. 9, pp. 1245-1263.



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