Dissertation Abstracts

Working lives of university educated women in Slovenia and in the Czech Republic: the role of diverse structural, institutional and cultural contexts

Author: Formánková, Lenka , lenka.formankova@soc.cas.cz
Department: Social policy and social work
University: Masaryk University, Faculty of Social Studies, Czech Republic
Supervisor: prof. Tomáš Sirovátka, Ph.D.
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Slovenia , Czech Republic , Family policy , working biographies
Areas of Research: Work , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Women in Society


The thesis focuses on individual employment trajectories of university educated women in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, who are combining their professional lives with care of children under age of six. The analytical framework of the thesis builds on several theoretical assumptions: 1) the centrality of motherhood in female lives (Badinter, 1998) which plays a crucial role in understanding the position of women in the field of gainful employment (Pfau-Effinger, 1998; Kremer, 2007), 2) the crucial role family policies play in setting the conditions for access of women to gainful employment (Lewis, 1992) and a close connection between the given design of family policy measures and the work-life balance strategies of women (e.g. Hašková, 2011), 3) the childrearing being a risky transition in the context of current rising instability and inequality in the labour markets (e.g. Taylor-Gooby, 2004), 4) the university educated women represent a distinct group – as they have a safer position in the labour market due to higher human capital and at the same time more to lose upon, in terms of labour market prospects, when having children (e.g. Crompton & Lyonette, 2010).
The research on work-life reconciliation is addressed in the context of Slovene and Czech structural arrangements. Slovenia as a country experiences the lowest impact of motherhood on female employment among countries of the European Union (in 2010, the employment rate of women with children under 12 was 1.6 percent higher than that of the childless; European Commission, 2012). The Czech Republic, on the other hand, has the highest impact of motherhood on female employment among countries of the European Union (a 31.6 percent lower employment rate among women with children in comparison to the childless; European Commission, 2013).
The research design based on mixed methods analysis depicts the complexity of structural and cultural settings of Slovenia and the Czech Republic. The analytical model requires integration of quantitative and qualitative methods and approaches.
The data analysis comprises of the following steps a) family policy analysis focused on normative understanding of caring in historical development b) descriptive statistical analysis on female employment patterns, and economic position of women c) biographical narative analysis of 32 interviews with university educated women with children under age of six on individual work-care reconciliation strategies.
The findings show the normative ideal of care plays a critical role in shaping individual decisions about work and family life, both in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The dominant norm, however, does not always correspond with individual understanding of ideal or sufficient care. The mismatch in normative framing of care leads some women to look for alternative solution within the set institutional and structural boundaries (e.g. intergenerational care). Therefore, we can support the hypothesis that work-life reconciliation strategies are framed by existing structural and institutional conditions. At the same time, the family policy design has strong links to the public discourses of ‘good parenting’, reinforced and eventually changed through the specific policy designs.