May 2024

IZA DP No. 16991: What Works for Working Couples? Work Arrangements, Maternal Labor Supply, and the Division of Home Production

Ludovica Ciasullo, Martina Uccioli

We document how a change to work arrangements reduces the child penalty in labor supply for women, and that the consequent more equal distribution of household income does not translate into a more equal division of home production between mothers and fathers. The Australian 2009 Fair Work Act explicitly entitled parents of young children to request a (reasonable) change in work arrangements. Leveraging variation in the timing of the law, timing of childbirth, and the bite of the law across different occupations and industries, we establish three main results. First, the Fair Work Act was used by new mothers to reduce their weekly working hours without renouncing their permanent contract, hence maintaining a regular schedule. Second, with this work arrangement, working mothers' child penalty declined from a 47 percent drop in hours worked to a 38 percent drop. Third, while this implies a significant shift towards equality in the female- and male-shares of household income, we do not observe any changes in the female (disproportionate) share of home production.