Immigrant parents less likely to return to work after giving birth, report finds

Immigrant parents are much less likely to return to work after having children than Irish parents, according to a new study of second-generation migrant children. While the cost of childcare is a challenge for all parents, a study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin found it is an even bigger one for immigrant parents, who are less likely to have the option of using relatives for childminding.

The study – one of the first to focus on “second-generation” migrant children in Ireland – found Irish mothers were more likely return to work after the birth of a child. About 42 per cent of Irish mothers were back at work within nine months of giving birth. By contrast, just 25 per cent of immigrant mothers from former EU accession states were working within the same time frame.

“This is particularly startling given the very high level of full-time labour force participation among this group of women before birth,” the report states. It states that while less well-off Irish parents tend to rely on relatives for childcare to allow them to return to work, this is not an option for many migrant families.

While many privileged migrant parents – such as those from “old” EU countries – used creches or childminders, less well-off migrant parents from eastern Europe were much less likely to do so.

“Immigrant parents have less access to relative care and many cannot afford other forms of childcare, leading to lower rates of return to work amongst migrant mothers,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr Antje Röder. “We cannot say yet to what extent this reflects different cultural preferences for the appropriate care of young children, but will continue to investigate this further as the study progresses.”

Overall, the study notes that children born to migrant parents make up a large and growing proportion of families in the country. One in four children born in Ireland in 2012 had a non-Irish-born mother. Almost half of this group had mothers from former EU accession countries, followed by Asia, Africa and Britain.

The study – which draws heavily on data from the national Growing Up in Ireland research project – says awareness of the challenges faced by second-generation children will be important for policymakers, given the growing diversity of Irish society.

Despite high levels of education, households headed by at least one migrant parent were more likely to be less well-off. Families with at least one parent from one of the “old” EU member states, on the other hand, were much better off. Most second-generation children and their families were more likely to live in rented accommodation and apartments rather than houses, with less access to gardens or other common spaces. While the vast majority were settled and part of their local communities, they felt less so compared to Irish families.

The report also found that “mixed” couples – with one parent from Ireland and one migrant parent – were more frequent than couples made up of two migrants. It was more common that the mother was non-Irish than the father in these mixed couples.

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Immigrant parents less likely to return to work after giving birth, report finds
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