Motherhood hits women’s earnings for a decade

18 Apr 2023
Image: Adobe

A University of Queensland study has shown having a baby negatively affects a mother’s employment earnings for up to 10 years.

Researchers from UQ’s Life Course Centre used data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to investigate the impact of parenthood on earnings across a period spanning 10 years prior to and 10 years after the birth of a child.

Lead author and Master of Philosophy student Ruth Steinbring said that while previous research found an immediate ‘motherhood penalty’ on women’s earnings, this study was one of the first to examine the long-term trajectory of household earnings through the transition into parenthood.

“We know that parenthood is a key contributor to loss of earnings for women, but we did not know whether or at what point women started to regain their lost earnings,” Ms Steinbring said.

“While there is an expectation over the long term that couples will gradually return to pre-parenthood earnings arrangements, our study results do not support this.

“Parenthood affects men and women differently and the gender gap in earnings is still evident up to 10 years after the first birth.”

The study shows the share of households with male breadwinners rises sharply post-parenthood and has still not returned to pre-parenthood levels 10 years on.

Read more