Clocking Up Childcare

With women making enormous strides in the workplace in recent decades, it has become more difficult for many working women to balance their careers with their home life — including their role as parent. We wonder: In which developed country do working mothers devote the most time to childcare?

A. South Korea
B. United States
C. Australia
D. Ireland

A. South Korea is not correct.

At only 31 minutes per day, South Korea's working mothers devote the least amount of time to primary childcare among the OECD countries surveyed. Part of the explanation for this is that South Koreans rank near the top in the world in terms of the number of hours they devote to paid work each day.

The other countries where working mothers spend relatively little time on primary childcare are Hungary (39 minutes), South Africa (45 minutes), Estonia (47 minutes) and Japan (53 minutes).

B. United States is not correct.

In the United States, working mothers typically spend one hour and 34 minutes per day on primary childcare, which is considerably higher than the OECD average of one hour and 14 minutes.

Interestingly, the United States scores higher than four Nordic countries surveyed — and it also exceeds the average total in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

C. Australia is not correct.

Working mothers in Australia, on average, devote two hours and 17 minutes per day to primary childcare. After Ireland, this is the second-longest amount of time spent on caring for children in developed countries.

The trend holds true for Australian fathers as well as mothers. At one hour and nine minutes per day, Australia ties with Ireland for the most time devoted by working fathers to primary childcare.

D. Ireland is correct.

In Ireland, working mothers spend on average two hours and 30 minutes per day on primary childcare (defined as activities in which caring for children is the primary task). This is longer than in any of the other OECD countries surveyed. Indeed, working mothers in Ireland spend almost as much of their day on primary childcare as Irish mothers who are not working.

While the reasons for this may vary, one likely factor is high childcare costs. An OECD study from 2007 found Ireland's out-of-pocket costs for formal childcare services, such as daycare, to be the highest of all the countries surveyed — often amounting to a third of a family's net income.

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