Mothers At Work: Childcare And Flexible Work Benefits Increasing

Published on May 12, 2023

Written by Tim Hatton, Echo Liu, Layla O'Kane, Julia Nitschke & Rudra Sett

mother's day

Creating a job market that works for everyone means making sure everyone in the family has access to the economic opportunities they want to pursue. Insufficient childcare and inflexible work arrangements make it difficult for parents to join the workforce when they want to, creating challenges for the entire family and also the entire labor market. Providing for your family in one way shouldn’t exclude providing for it in another, but that’s the challenge mothers often face. 

As Mother’s Day approaches, there’s good news in the data: job postings show that childcare benefits and flexible work arrangements have shown huge gains since the beginning of the pandemic, and industries with a higher share of women working are more likely to offer both kinds of benefits. 

Share of job postings with childcare benefits

Childcare And Flexible Work Benefits Increasing

From January 2019 to January 2023, childcare benefits grew by 122% overall. Those postings (which include keywords like “onsite childcare,” “childcare assistance,” and “childcare FSA”) have seen 73% growth during the pandemic era (March 2020 through March 2022), and a further 43% since. 

Flexible work has seen similarly high growth. Job postings including keywords like “flexible schedule,” “compressed hours,” and “personalized work schedule” are up 89% from January 2019 to January 2023. During the pandemic, flexible work benefits grew by 31%, and increased again by 12% after March 2022.

Those trends are good news for everyone, as they indicate that more employees are able to find work that’s feasible within their schedules, allowing them to find a greater range of opportunities in the labor market and greater control over their work-life balance.

Share of job postings with flexible scheduling benefits

Industries With More Women Offer More Childcare And Flexibility Benefits

But because it’s Mother’s Day and (more significantly) women are more likely to be kept out of the labor force to take care of children, we can also look at the same benefits not just over time, but broken out by industry.

Here again, there’s good news. The data seem to indicate that the industries with more female employees are more likely to prioritize childcare benefits and work-life balance. 

Postings show a positive correlation between the percentage of female employment and the percentage of childcare and flexible benefits offered in an industry, and industries with a higher female employment percent tend to offer higher percentages of both types of benefits.

Female employment as compared to childcare benefits

Overall, the percentage of childcare benefits offered is generally lower than the percentage of flexible work benefits offered across all industries. This suggests a nuanced difference between the way industries prioritize work-life balance as compared to family-friendly policies—one doesn’t necessarily imply the other.

Looking at both charts, there’s a major outlier in common: Health Care and Social Assistance has the highest percentage of female employment, with 77.5% of the workforce being female. However, it's a relatively low performer in terms of offering both types of benefits, with only 2.23% of postings offered childcare benefits and 8.5% for flexible work benefits. To better support its predominantly female workforce, employers in Health Care and Social Assistance industry could consider implementing more family-friendly and work-life balance benefits.

Graph showing female employment compared to flexible work benefits, with a positive correlation

Childcare And Flexibility Help Reach Missing Workers

Though there’s more to gain in fields like health care with a higher proportion of women, expanded access to childcare and flexible work presents new opportunities throughout the labor market, especially when workers are hard to find. Lightcast Demographic Drought research shows that an aging population is going to force employers looking for talent to seek out those on the sidelines. Missing workers—those who are not technically part of the labor force but who still want a job—are key to bridging this workforce gap, and parents needing to stay home are a perfect example. 

Maybe a mom with young kids would be happy to work, but inaccessible or expensive childcare keeps her from applying for jobs. By offering benefits like childcare and flexible work, it’s within employers’ power to remove obstacles that keep potential workers from filling openings.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, there’s still much to be done in making sure everyone, including and especially moms, can have access to join the workforce in the way they want. But the rise of flexible work and childcare benefits offer a promising sign that we’re moving in the right direction.