Skip to content

Spain: Labor Markets & Fertility

Study: Labor Market Institutions and Fertility

A comprehensive study focuses on the alarmingly low fertility rates in high-income countries, with a special emphasis on Spain. This report unpacks their findings and highlights the implications for understanding and addressing low fertility rates.

Why It Matters

The issue of declining fertility rates in high-income nations is pressing. It’s linked to broader demographic shifts like aging populations and has far-reaching economic implications, including slower economic growth, lower interest rates, and potential crises in social security systems. Hence, dissecting the underlying causes is vital for effective policy-making.

Core Findings

  • Labor Market Duality and Fertility: The study finds a strong correlation between labor market structures and fertility decisions. In countries like Spain, the coexistence of temporary and permanent job contracts creates a dual labor market, which fosters uncertainty, especially for college-educated women. This uncertainty is a key factor behind delayed childbearing and lower fertility rates.
  • Inflexible Work Schedules: Rigid work schedules, such as split-shift jobs that disrupt the day with long breaks, exacerbate the issue by making it difficult to balance work and childcare. This inflexibility is another crucial factor in the low fertility trend.
  • Impact of Reforms: The researchers used a life-cycle model to show that reforms eliminating labor market duality and inflexibility could boost fertility rates significantly, from an average of 1.54 to about 1.7.
  • Role of Childcare Subsidies: Providing childcare support can further elevate fertility rates, potentially raising them to 1.86.

In-Depth Analysis

  • Temporary Contracts: The data reveals that women employed under temporary contracts have a 28% lower probability of having a first child compared to those with permanent contracts. This gap in fertility likelihood can be attributed to the inherent instability and lower income prospects associated with temporary contracts.
  • Split-Shift Schedules: The analysis shows that women with children are markedly less likely to work in jobs with split-shift schedules. These schedules, typical in Spain, present challenges for childcare and contribute to the decision to have fewer children.
  • Impact of Specific Reforms: Policy changes aimed at eliminating the divide between temporary and permanent contracts and introducing more flexible work arrangements lead to higher fertility rates. These reforms also significantly increase labor force participation among women and close the employment gap between mothers and non-mothers.


The study’s robustness comes from its use of rich administrative data from the Spanish Social Security records and time-use surveys. This data enabled the researchers to build a detailed life-cycle model. In this model, married women make decisions about whether to work, the number and timing of children, and savings. The model factored in various elements such as job types (temporary vs. permanent), work schedules (split-shift vs. regular), and childcare costs.

Broader Context and Implications

This research provides critical insights into how specific labor market structures in high-income countries like Spain influence women’s fertility decisions. It underscores the role of job security and work-life balance as key determinants in family planning choices. The findings suggest that labor market reforms, coupled with supportive measures like childcare subsidies, can be effective tools in countering the trend of low fertility in similar economies.


This study is a significant contribution to the discourse on demographic economics. It sheds light on the intricate links between labor market institutions and fertility decisions. The study not only underscores the challenges faced by high-income countries in maintaining sustainable population growth but also outlines potential pathways for policy interventions aimed at reviving fertility rates. The insights gained are crucial for policymakers grappling with the demographic and economic challenges posed by aging populations in advanced economies.