Employed or inactive? Cross-national differences in coding parental leave beneficiaries in European Labour Force Survey data

  • Malgorzata Mikucka CEPS/INSTEAD
  • Marie Valentova CEPS/INSTEAD
Keywords: labor force survey, employment status, women's employment, cross-country comparability, measurement, parental leave


In survey research the parental leave beneficiaries are usually coded as either employed or inactive. An exception is the European Labor Force Survey (EU-LFS), which includes parental leave among other forms of being employed but temporarily not working. This paper explores classification of parental leave takers in EU-LFS. We show that classification rules differ cross-nationally: in some countries parental leave takers are considered inactive, in others -- employed but temporarily not working. In particular in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Slovakia the EU-LFS data classify the beneficiaries as inactive. We estimate the number of mothers on parental leave in these countries and show that EU-LFS employment rates of women aged 18-40 are biased downwards 2-7 percentage points; for mothers of children aged 0-2 the bias reaches 12-45 percentage points. Our study shows the limited comparability of EU-LFS employment rates and warns about possible bias in cross-national studies.