After a break: returning to one´s job is like a new beginning

Study shows many employees change profession after a break, many want to continue their education

·      According to a new study by IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU), three quarters of those returning to their jobs see their return to work as an opportunity to completely or partially reorient themselves professionally.

·      About 9 out of 10 respondents are interested in further education, mostly in the field of healthcare. Opportunities in the future market of IT are not being taken advantage of.

·      Flexibility in terms of time and place are important both in the choice of CET and for the new profession.


Erfurt, 11 January 2022. According to the study "Back to work - Equal, Educated, in Demand?" by IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU), most respondents consider their return to work as an opportunity for reorientation. The study surveyed people who are on extended child-rearing or caregiving leave and cannot return to their previous jobs. 46.4 percent want to return to a different job. 29.5 percent want extended tasks or more responsibility at the same job.

In order to improve their chances, nine out of ten respondents (87.6 percent) would like to further their education, and mostly prefer to do this exclusively online (58.9 percent). In addition, almost all respondents (91 percent) consider a free allocation of time to be important. Among other things, further education should enable them to work more flexibly. At 37.1 percent, this is the most important reason, followed by the goal of finding a new job (34.2 percent), changing careers (30.8 percent) or getting a higher salary (29.9 percent) or a higher position (23.4 percent). Health is the most popular sector for further education (38.6 percent), followed by marketing and communication (27.2 percent). IT and technology follows only in third place with 20 percent.

"Health professions tend to be lower paid, very demanding and less flexible. The IT sector, on the other hand, is clearly a market of the future, and it offers the best opportunities, especially for women returning to work after a break. Many women still have prejudices and reservations about this sector. But IT is anything but dry and abstract; it´s very concrete and social. My experience is that their interest is quickly aroused once they have come into contact with the industry," says Prof. Dr. Alexandra Wuttig, Chancellor of IU.

Although 79.4 percent of all respondents were satisfied with their old employer, a return is not possible or not desired for them: 28.1 percent of the respondents have resigned, 45.1 percent have given notice or have not received a new offer after their employment contract expired. Of the respondents who quit themselves, 40 percent said that job and family had been incompatible. 21.5 percent of the respondents were not even given the option by their employer to reduce their working hours.

"Work and family are difficult to reconcile, especially when it comes to management positions. Such positions are usually designed to be full-time. There is still a long way to go before all jobs are divisible and compatible with family life," says Prof. Dr. Regina Cordes, prorector and head of the New Work programme at IU International University of Applied Sciences.

22.3 percent of those surveyed fear that they could be disadvantaged in their job search because of their family situation. The majority, however, are optimistic about the future: around 70 percent rate their prospects of finding a new job as very good or rather good.


About the study

As part of the 2021 trend study "Back to work - Equal, Educated, in Demand?", both a quantitative and a qualitative survey were conducted. 497 people were surveyed quantitatively and anonymously who were on extended parental or care leave at the time of the survey and could not return to their previous jobs. 79.4 percent of the respondents were female, which is in line with the statistics of the Federal Employment Agency, according to which it is predominantly women who return to work after taking paternal or care leaves. Qualitatively, two focus groups of six participants each were interviewed. The interviewees are between 26 and 49 years old and have been on a career break for more than a year.


With over 75,000 students, IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) is the largest university in Germany. The private, state-recognised educational institution brings together more than 200 Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes under its roof, which are offered in German or English. Students can choose between on-campus study, dual study, distance learning and flexible combination models and thus shape their studies in a self-determined way. In addition, IU facilitates continuing education and promotes the idea of lifelong learning. The university's goal is to make education possible for as many people as possible. IU began operations in 2000 and is now represented in 28 German cities. It cooperates with over 10,000 companies and actively supports them in employee development. Its partners include Motel One, VW Financial Services and Deutsche Bahn. Further information at: www.iu.de/en