Dutch women work and still earn less than men.

One of the possible solutions that political parties come up with is free childcare.

But does dropping your child free of charge really ensure that women start working more and therefore ultimately earn more per hour worked?

The statistics don't lie: women earned a whopping 14 percent less than men in 2019.

In addition, with 28.5 hours a week, they work a lot less than Dutch men, who work an average of 39 hours a week.

This part-time culture is very deeply ingrained in our society, says Wil Portegijs, researcher at the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP).

“We have gone from a society in which the woman took care of the children and the man worked to a kind of one-and-a-half-earner model,” says Portegijs.

And that is what the entire society is designed for.

"Childcare is expensive compared to other countries, partner leave is short compared to other countries and part-time is the norm in sectors where many women work."

According to the researcher, all this ensures that women work less after their first child and

are faced

with the

child penalty

.

In the Netherlands, according to Janna Besamusca, sociologist at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), we see childcare primarily as a place to bring your child so that you can work yourself.

According to her, this plays a role in the choice to work less as a mother.

"Many Dutch people think that a child is best off when it is raised at home, preferably by the mother," she says.

"In Scandinavia, for example, it is very different. There childcare is part of the education system and it is quite normal to hand over part of the upbringing during childcare."

Not every woman will work (anymore) with free childcare

The result: Dutch women work less than their partners, especially if there are children.

But is free childcare a magical solution to that unequal labor participation and pay gap?

Not quite, thinks Besamusca.

It seems certain that women will work more as a result of the measure.

"In 2005, childcare suddenly became financially more favorable for parents as a result of a change in the law. After that, it is estimated that women worked about 6 percent more hours. But that is mainly because women who were already working started working more hours. you do not enter the labor market so quickly with such a measure. "

"If women start working longer hours, they make a career easier and they reach the top faster."

Joyce van der Wegen, board member of the Dutch Women's Council

The measure does have an indirect effect on the pay gap, says Joyce van der Wegen, board member of the Dutch Women's Council (NVR).

"If women start working more hours, they make a career easier and they reach the top more quickly. As a result, the differences in wages will eventually also become smaller."

But, Van der Wegen also says: the pay gap has many more causes.

"Women, for example, relatively often work in low-paid sectors, such as healthcare and education. And the pay gap has an inexplicable part: women are paid less for the same hours of the same work."

Free childcare certainly does not mean that we will be rid of the pay gap within a few years.

"We need patience, but this is one of the most important measures we can take," says researcher Portegijs.

"Women face a lot of headwinds in the labor market and this measure would certainly help them."