Work-Family Programs and Nonwork Networks: Within-Group Inequality, Network Activation, and Labor Market Attachment

At an Indian garment factory, employer-sponsored childcare increases working mothers' attendance, especially among mothers with daughters. 


An increasing number of organizations offer work-family programs intended to support workers balancing work and family obligations, with examples including parental leave, flexible scheduling, childcare subsidies, and on-site childcare. The effectiveness of these programs, however, can be inconsistent or varied: men and women, for example, often experience them differently. 

Existing literature suggests that the effects of work-family programs vary between different socio-demographic groups, but few studies examine how effects vary within socio-demographic groups. Determining when and why workers within the same group—specifically, economically disadvantaged women workers who are mothers—benefit from work-family programs may reveal factors that shape the effectiveness of work-family policies, with workers' access to non-work support resources key among them. 

In this study, the authors examined how access to employer-sponsored childcare affected the attendance of working mothers at an Indian garment factory. Using a quasi-experimental approach, they drew on administrative records and survey data to track workers' daily attendance before and after they started using the factory's childcare center and leveraged qualitative interviews to understand the factors contributing to patterns in attendance records. 


Workers whose non-work networks were less likely to contribute informal childcare assistance — including workers with daughters — benefited more from access to employer-sponsored childcare. 

  • Workers with sons received more informal childcare support from non-work social networks, according to qualitative data. 

  • Workers' attendance increased by 5.5 percentage points after receiving access to employer-sponsored childcare.  

  • The attendance of workers with daughters increased by 7.5 percentage points after receiving access to employer-sponsored childcare, while the attendance of workers with sons increased by 2.5 percentage points.  

  • Workers earned approximately 10% more on average after receiving access to employer-sponsored childcare. These monetary gains were especially pronounced among workers with daughters. 

  • Supplemental analyses utilizing a different analytic approach showed that workers were approximately 35% less likely to quit by the end of the study period if they received access to employer-sponsor childcare. This reduced turnover was especially pronounced among workers with daughters. 

These findings reveal the interconnected nature of non-work networks and workplace work-family programs. They suggest that understanding the dynamics of workers’ non-work lives, including cultural norms and the availability of informal support, may be crucial to shaping effective work-family programs. Furthermore, because a worker’s compensation is linked to their daily attendance in many settings, these findings show how childcare access can impact a mother’s take-home pay. 


The study occurred at a large garment factory on the outskirts of Bangalore, India that provided employer-sponsored childcare at an on-site facility. Childcare was free of charge to workers, but limited to a maximum of 100 children at a time, creating a waitlist for working mothers seeking assistance. More than 1,800 women were employed in low-skill jobs and their work attendance was tied to their overall earnings.

The study relied on three sources of quantitative data obtained from the factory: 1) childcare center records, 2) workers' daily attendance records, and 3) workers' demographic and family characteristics data. These sources were used to generate a data set on the daily attendance, from April 2012 to January 2016, of 160 working mothers who used the employer-sponsored childcare at some point during the observation period, as well as phone calls to workers to fill in missing data.

The direct effect of employer-sponsored childcare on working mothers' daily attendance was measured through a comparison of the same worker's attendance records before and after receiving access to the childcare center. The effect of childcare was also compared between mothers enrolling girls and mothers enrolling boys, and between mothers with a spouse or parents present in the household and mothers with a spouse or parents absent from the household.  

Quantitative analyses were supplemented by the findings from 22 interviews with working mothers who had used the employer-sponsored childcare and other family members. Interviews were conducted between July and August 2018 and included questions about the interviewee's relationships with the children in their family, the extent of childcare provided by the interviewee and/or their family members, and experiences with the employer and the employer-provided childcare.  

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