Maternity leave policies have important effects on several labour market outcomes of women, and are specifically designed to reduce gender differences in the various dimensions of working life and to contrast the negative consequence of fertility decisions. By making use of a unique data set which contains complete work and fertility histories for different European countries, combined with features of maternity leave schemes across countries and over time, we look at the effect of maternity leave benefits on job interruptions after each successive childbirth. The main result of the paper is that maternity leave legislation in Europe effectively increases job protection and female labour market attachment: a more generous paid maternity leave increases the number of weeks employed but not at work, but reduces the number of weeks spent out of the labour market.

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