This study investigates how paid parental leave (PPL) can supplement functional social support and affect maternal stress in a context of undersupplied childcare support. A Japanese PPL reform implemented in 2017 improves functional social support by entitling an additional 6-month extendable PPL period to parents with childcare arrangement difficulties, making the maximum length of the postpartum job-protected leave period increased from 18 months to 24 months. We explore the stress-relief effect of being eligible for the new entitlement using an observational dataset originally collected before and after the policy intervention. We construct a policy-relevant sample and a policy-irrelevant sample of mothers with regular employment based on the eligibility conditions of the new entitlement and balance the pre- and postintervention cohorts using coarsened exact matching. The policy effect is identified by comparing the pre- and postintervention maternal stress of balanced policy-relevant observations; the unconfoundedness assumption, which validates the identification strategy, is tested by analyzing the policy-irrelevant sample. The results indicate that being eligible for the additional PPL period has a relief effect on maternal low-level stress, and the effect is more pronounced for married mothers from medium–high household income families; the eligibility is found to have a null effect on maternal high-level stress.
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