Connection between the type of childcare used by Estonian and minority mothers of pre-school children and labour force participation and income

Ave Roots 

Childcare is one of the most important factors that allows mothers to cope with the challenges of work-family balance. Frequently, formal childcare is not sufficient and informal childcare is important in situations where formal childcare is unavailable. Since minority ethnicities living in Estonia have been shown to be more collectivist than Estonians, it is assumed that they might rely on informal childcare more and that this may improve their position in the labour market. 

Minority mothers indeed rely more on informal childcare and this benefits them in the labour market. Although the labour force participation of Estonian mothers is still higher than that of minority mothers, informal childcare helps to reduce the gap. 

The use of different childcare options also differs by occupation. Those employed in the service sector who work when formal childcare institutions are closed are most likely to rely on informal childcare or some combinations of formal and informal childcare. Workers are also more likely to use informal childcare when formal childcare institutions are closed. Managers are statistically more likely to use informal childcare than unskilled workers. 

Estonian formal childcare system is equally available regardless of ethnicity, income or place of residence. The use of formal childcare, however, varies on the basis of education. More educated people are more informed about coping strategies and are more successful in the use of different systems (including the childcare system). Also, more educated people are likely to have wider networks that are likely to include people who work in different social systems. Differences in the employment of mothers with different educations derive from differing access to formal childcare.