Job Instability and Fertility Intentions of Young Adults in Europe: Does Labor Market Legislation Matter?

Published date01 March 2020
Date01 March 2020
ANNALS, AAPSS, 688, March 2020 225
DOI: 10.1177/0002716220910419
Job Instability
and Fertility
Intentions of
Young Adults in
Europe: Does
Labor Market
Total birth rates have fallen dramatically in many
European countries during the last 40 years. Job and
income instability caused by labor market polarization
are significant drivers of declining birth rates because
employment certainty and stability are crucial to child-
birth planning among young adults. This article investi-
gates the impact of job instability on the fertility
intentions of young adults in Europe, focusing on
employment protection legislation (EPL) in European
countries. I use data from twenty-seven countries that
participated in the European Social Survey in 2004 and
2010 to show that job instability measured as temporary
employment, informal work, and unemployment
decreases fertility intentions among European youth
regardless of the EPL in the country. Unemployed
young adults tend to plan less for having their first child
in the countries with high EPL. Contrary to the
hypotheses, multilevel modeling showed that young
people in temporary or informal employment in coun-
tries with low EPL show decreases in their fertility
Keywords: job instability; fertility intentions; employ-
ment type; employment protection legis-
lation; dual labor markets; Europe
Only a few European countries have experi-
enced fertility growth in the last 20 years,
while others have been facing considerable
decline in birth rates, with fertility falling far
below the replacement level (Feyrer, Sacerdote,
and Stern 2008; Balbo, Billari, and Mills 2013;
Rindfuss and Choe 2015). Between 1970 and
the 1990s, fertility decline was attributed to
increased female participation in higher educa-
tion and the labor force (Becker 1981; Bloom
Tatiana Karabchuk has published more than twenty
peer-reviewed articles, completed twelve research
grants, and has been working at the UAE University in
Al Ain since 2016. Before that, she worked with the
National Research University - Higher School of
Economics in Moscow for 14 years as an associate pro-
fessor and the deputy director of LCSR.
and Trussell 1984; Kiernan 1989; Jacobson and Heaton 1991). In the 2000s,
however, we learned that the higher the female employment rate in a country,
the higher the fertility rate (Ahn and Mira 2002; Adsera 2005). Further investiga-
tions have shown that women’s employment status (if they are permanently or
temporary employed, unemployed, self-employed, or nonactive) plays an even
greater role in fertility decisions than the employment rate in general (Adsera
2005; Adsera and Menendez 2011; Del Bono, Weber, and Winter-Ebmer 2011).
This study investigates the impact of job instability on fertility intentions for
young adults across European countries. Fertility intentions or desired number
of children or plans to have a child are widely taken as indicators measuring fertil-
ity behavior of a population (Modena and Sabatini 2012; Dommermuth, Klobas,
and Lappegård 2015; Karabchuk 2017). Job instability includes temporary
employment, informal employment, and unemployment. Recent studies have
revealed that most nonpermanent types of work are insecure; have no social ben-
efits; and are associated with lack of career opportunities, long-term unemploy-
ment, entrapment in temporary jobs, and wage losses (Sverke and Hellgren 2002;
Kalleberg 2011; Yu 2012). Due to unstable income and uncertainty in the future,
job instability leads young adults to postpone marriage and childbearing (Adsera
2005; Kreyenfeld 2010; Kalleberg 2011).
A few single-country case studies have highlighted the negative impact of job
instability on fertility and plans for childbearing (Adsera and Menendez 2011; Del
Bono, Weber, and Winter-Ebmer 2011; Modena and Sabatini 2012; Auer and
Danzer 2016), but there is a lack of research on job instability and fertility that
takes a cross-national perspective. Further, there is a paucity of research that
focuses on labor market regulations as a main predictor of job instability. Therefore,
the goal of this article is to explore the effects of job instability on fertility intentions
among European young adults and the extent to which cross-national differences
in employment protection legislation (EPL)1 explain these effects. I use data from
the 2004 and 2010 European Social Survey (ESS) in the analyses.
The article is organized as follows: in the next section, I discuss demographics
and the literature on job instability and EPL. I then move on to theoretical
frameworks and hypotheses and a description of data and research methodology.
Finally, I provide the analysis and discuss the empirical results and conclusions.
Fertility Decline and Job Instability
Against the background of declining world birth rates, several patterns of fertility
dynamics in Europe took shape in the 2000s (see Table A1 in the appendix).
Some countries had been experiencing constant growth in fertility rates; and by
2010, fertility in France, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, and the UK reached about
two children per female. Most European countries witnessed moderate increases,
but the rates were still below replacement level in Russia, Slovenia, the
Netherlands, and Estonia, among other countries. A third group of countries had
negative or frozen dynamics, with very low fertility rates—Germany, Slovakia,
Latvia, and Italy, to name a few (Table A1).

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