While studying the relationship between productive and reproductive goals for women, scholars identified two types of conflict: work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict.
The former occurs when “demands from one role at home affects one’s ability to meet the demands associated with another role in another domain at the workplace” and is typical of patriarchal societies that see women primarily in the role of mothers. In contrast, family-to-work conflict encompasses experiences in the family that hinder work life (babies, elder care, or other support in the family). This creates the issue of the double burden, i.e. the burden for women to be responsible for being both productive and reproductive actors for society.
In Croatia, the level of family-to-work conflict is very low, as family is given the top-value as an institution. Thus, women are often forced to choose between work and family.
Again, society’s attitude towards gender roles is not fair. According to a Gender Equity Survey conducted in 2017, 60% of respondents in Croatia said that the most important role of a woman is to take care of her family. This value is much higher than the EU-28 average i.e. 44%. The same survey also stated that about 80% of respondents said that women have less freedom as compared to men when it comes to advancing their careers, due to various household responsibilities.
This makes it more difficult for women to enter the workforce and grow professionally. Therefore, their participation in the labor force is quite lower than men as they have to take care of children, and eventually do not reach the highest point of employment (compared with men) until around 40 years of age. As per a survey done in 2017, around 25% of women had to give up on their careers, and 20% had to reject their promotion, due to their family responsibilities.
The issue is then reflected in their salaries. 13% of women received a lower salary at least once because they could not perform their work duties, due to several family commitments.
The situation is exacerbated in the private sector. The chances of a woman leaving or changing jobs doubles due to child-care issues than in the public sector.
The lack of childcare services combined with social norms that want women to be more responsible towards their households are among the main reasons why women struggle to actively participate in the workforce during their childbearing years. A significant amount of research has been done that sees a correlation between childcare & eldercare services, and female employment. As if the state provides more facilities to women, they will be more professionally active.
However, the lack of adequate services is one of the country’s historical issues. Since the Socialist period, in fact, Croatia has faced poor childcare facilities (that is, the percentage of children who were eligible for public nurseries), only reached 25% in 1987.
A survey conducted in 1975 in several factories in Yugoslavia proved that about 62% of women did not use public childcare services, either due to an actual lack of places at institutions or to align with traditional values. In fact, most women preferred to leave their children alone or with neighbors.
However, the situation was very different in the more affluent social classes. Almost twice as many women were more likely to take advantage of childcare services as they lived in big cities, and got better access to facilities. The same issue occurs today. An analysis by the European Union estimated that only 3.8% of children in Croatia benefited from a formal and adequate childcare system. The European average is 34.5 percent. Despite the fact that the percentage is much lower than the European average in all categories, the percentage is much higher in bigger cities due to the presence of more facilities.
The most important reason why parents prefer not to rely on care facilities is the great preference for family figures (usually the maternal grandmother). On the other hand, the opposite happens in the rest of the Europe. In order to stimulate female employment, several states are implementing childcare policies. For example, Malta has introduced a free childcare program for children under the age of 3 to encourage mothers not to leave their jobs. As a result, there has been a rise of upto 60% in the enrollment of these programs . Similar policies have also been implemented in Hungary and France.
Moreover, in Croatia, public childcare facilities do not accept children who are not at least one year old. However, because the remuneration for the last six months of maternity leave (i.e., optional maternity leave) is very low, women often find themselves entrusting their children to their own family (grandparents or other relatives) or to childcare professionals, such as nannies or babysitters. This is another reason why women in the prime of their productive lives (25-49) tend to be more inactive than their male counterparts. Only 18.2% of men, in fact, report leaving their jobs due to family responsibilities. This percentage is higher among women – 61.4%. In men, the biggest reasons for productive inactivity are related to retirement or health problems.
The only age group where men and women have the same reasons is the 15-24 age group when they are pursuing their higher education. In addition, some studies also claim that women who receive higher education are more likely to slow down their careers due to childcare, than those with primary education. Among the factors to consider is the number of children – the greater the number of children, the greater the gender gap in labor force participation. In fact, the percentage of a woman being part of the workforce while she has children drops precipitously, whereas in men this percentage remains fairly stable. In the young population (25-54 years old) the gender gap is 10.3 percentage, which is greater in couples with at least two children than in women without children. Among women who decide to leave their jobs to take care of their families and offspring, 72.1% have been out of the labor force for at least one year. For men, this percentage drops to 12.1%. In other European countries, the percentages are similar. In Italy, for example, the female employment rate with one child is 72% but drops to 58% with three or more children. In men, this rate goes from 87% with one child to 85% with three or more children.