Affordable pre-school childcare is widely recognized as an important factor in the employment of mothers of pre-school children, but the extent to which further increasing of pre-school capacity can increase female employment varies widely across states, depending on institutional settings and social norms in a given country.
To estimate the impact on maternal employment, researchers have used changes in preschool availability in kindergartens over time. This deteriorated significantly between 2001 and 2011. "While in 2001 there was a shortage of about 63,000 kindergarten places, by 2011 there were more than 105,000. And due to this decline in kindergarten availability, 9,000 fewer mothers were employed in 2011," said Klára Kalíšková from SYRI and CERGE-EI.
According to SYRI researchers, the shortage of kindergarten places represents a loss to public budgets of CZK 1.2-1.7 billion a year in income taxes and levies for these women who would be employed if they had a place for their child in a kindergarten.
Although expanding kindergarten capacity is a major political issue and its importance is often discussed in the public sphere, the causal impact of expanding kindergarten capacity on the employment of mothers in the Czech Republic has not been studied much. The study by SYRI researchers is a unique probe in this regard.
"We have linked data from the Census of Population, Houses and Flats and the School Register of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to create a unique database capturing both the demand for pre-school childcare and the capacity of kindergartens in more than 6,000 Czech municipalities between 2001 and 2011. We also modelled the variant that a kindergarten is not available in the municipality of residence. We collected data on commuting distances to the nearest municipalities with kindergartens and estimated the chances of parents getting a kindergarten place in neighboring municipalities," Kalíšková says.
The situation in individual municipalities is, of course, different. In some places, accessibility has been reduced, for example, because a satellite town has been built on the edge of the municipality and many young families with pre-school children have moved in. In another municipality, on the other hand, there may have been an exodus of young families or the village may have received funding to expand the kindergarten, and so accessibility has increased.
"We addressed the question of how these changes in kindergarten availability affected the employment of women with preschool children. Our estimates show that a 10 percentage point increase in the availability of kindergarten places led to a 0.2-0.4 percentage point increase in the employment rate of mothers of preschool-age children," said Kalíšková, who, in addition to SYRI, works at the National Economic Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Informatics and Statistics at the University of Economics in Prague.