Maternity – quit or rejoin work?

Meera Siva | Updated on March 12, 2018




While the choice to leave is out of love – for the child, for the family – the monetary aspects of the decision also merit consideration.

Blessed with a baby recently? Congratulations. A new chapter in your life begins. But motherhood brings with it new expectations and unexpected challenges. The lack of support systems is forcing many working women to quit their job. Almost half of the women in junior level jobs quit before reaching middle management. While the choice to leave is out of love – for the child, for the family – the monetary aspects of the decision also merit consideration.

Child care choices

Working moms worldwide rely on grandparents to shoulder the primary share of child care. Paid providers may also aid elderly grandparents. When using outside care, issues such as safety, security and a back-up plan for day-offs need attention.

Organised day-care centres allay many of these concerns and could be cost effective compared to employing a nanny. Considerations in day care selection include checking for small group size and high adult to child ratio. Due diligence is a must — child care and pre-school segments are not regulated and there are no licences or safety mandates.

Cost of small things

It is difficult to put a number to child care costs as they vary widely depending on labour rates and real estate costs in each locality.

The option you choose depends on your comfort level and also on family income and wealth. However, we have tried to capture the costs as a ratio of salary and the table shows that costs can take away 15 per cent or up to a third of the salary. Taking 2 days off from work to handle health issues for the mother and the child would add 10 per cent more to the cost.

Woman talent loss

It is tempting to say “why not save on these costs and avoid the hassles by dumping the job”? Personal reasons to leave a job are too many to list, but those of us who have a choice should consider the flip side of quitting.

To start with, one may feel a loss of financial independence. Those who only planned on a few years break may face difficultly in re-entering. When they re-join, finding juniors at a higher level (and earning more) and re-adjustment may be discomforting.

But it is the monetary loss that may really give you a pause. When a woman who earns Rs 40,000 a year takes a 4-year break, she could be foregoing as much as Rs 1 crore over a 30-year career, assuming a 7 per cent annual pay raise. The whopping amount is not just the actual pay sacrificed during your break. It recognises that your pay in later years will be lower too, as your career gets ‘reset’ when you resume.

You must also consider that your family’s expenses will balloon as your kid grows up —cost of school, clothes, extra-curricular activities, vacations and higher education.

Big picture

The annual drop-out rate is 18 per cent for women in the workforce. Women form only 10 per cent of the senior level, although around 1 crore women are in the work force. Urban women with graduate degrees are more likely to be attending domestic duties than rural women — 57 per cent for urban compared to 31 per cent to rural, according to a McKinsey study in 2012. The good news is that Indian companies are taking note.

According to Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, 42 per cent of Indian companies are planning to hire/promote women into senior management in 2012/13 - higher than the 15 per cent for companies globally.

Proctor and Gamble reduced attrition after maternity leave from 30 per cent to zero through flexible/reduced schedule and work from home options. Hindustan Unilever offers flexible work choices and job sharing arrangements and Tata has a career transition management program, called SCIP, for women who took a break. Ernst and Young, Standard Chartered, IBM, HUL, ABB, GE, Tesco and Godrej offer crèches on-site or near-by, to increase retention.

When you have a baby to care for, you are tempted to make a short-term decision to take the mommy track. But think, just think, what if you could take the road less travelled?

Have any query that needs solving? Write to us at >hermoney@thehindu.co.in

> meera.siva@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 23, 2013

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