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The Impact of the ‘Free Choice’ Work/Family Reforms of France and Belgium. A Synthetic Control Analysis
Since the mid-1980s France and Belgium have modified their family policy system by introducing two long leave schemes and some measures to support childcare at home. Although this change has been presented under the umbrella of the ‘free choice’ for women rhetoric, several scholars have argued that it would have de facto reinforced the male bread-winner model and, consequently, discouraged female economic activity. In order to test this conjecture, this paper illustrates an impact evaluation of this policy-intervention period. The synthetic control method has allowed to contrast the evolution of French and Belgian female labour force participation rates, observed in consequence of the implementation of the policies under investigation, with the corresponding evolution of the same rates, observable in the absence of such work/family programs. This exercise has induced to think that, if both France and Belgium would have not exposed to this policy-treatment, their female labour market participation rates would be higher than those actually measured.