Labour market Participation

Women still remain underrepresented in the labour market. 67% of women are currently in employment, whereas men’s employment stands at 79%. In other words, there is a gender employment gap of 12%.

Even if more women participate in the labour market, the burden of private and care responsibilities, the unpaid work, still rests largely on their backs. Women’s increase in working hours doesn’t automatically lead to more balanced sharing of domestic and caregiving work between women and men. Overall, women work more when combining the amount of time dedicated to unpaid labour (day-to-day, domestic duties, including care), personal activities and leisure time.

Women are increasingly well qualified: more women than men graduate from universities in Europe. However, many women don’t feel as free in their choice of jobs or do not get the same job opportunities as men. This is often due to their responsibilities as a parent or as a carer of family relatives. For the same reason, women are more likely than men to work in part-time jobs.

Work is the best way to empower women economically. It is therefore necessary to increase women’s labour market participation.

Man running of a running track. Woman next to him, much slower because sh'es with two kids and a shopping caddy.

Women are increasingly well qualified: more women than men graduate from universities in Europe. However, many women don’t feel as free in their choice of jobs or do not get the same job opportunities as men. This is often due to their responsibilities as a parent or as a carer of family relatives. For the same reason, women are more likely than men to work in part-time jobs.

Work is the best way to empower women economically. It is therefore necessary to increase women’s labour market participation.

 

Economic impact of the gender employment gap

The economic loss due to the gender employment gap amounts to €370 billion per year. Taking action is both a social and an economic imperative. Improving gender equality could lead to an increase in GDP of up to €3.15 trillion by 2050.

Find out about the OECD’s data on gender equality.

 

Gender Pay Gap

Women also earn less than men per hour. The gender pay gap in the EU stands at 16 % and has barely changed in the last decade. Its reasons lie in the different working patterns of women, including the fact that women more often interrupt their careers or change their working pattern to look after a child or other relatives. Another reason is that women across the EU often work in low-paid sectors and their salaries are also lowered due to their part-time employment. Some women are even paid less than men for the same work.

Find out more about the Gender pay gap.

 

Work-Life balance

In order for both men and women to engage equally in the labour market, caring responsibilities have to be shared equally. This is at core of the EU’s Directive on work-life balance for working parents and carers.

Statistics show that men would prefer to work less hours during the parenting phase. These findings also suggest a potential for change: men’s aspirations could be met by offering better and more equally shared work-life balance arrangements to families. These arrangements include measures such as paid paternity leave and adequately paid reserved periods of parental leave for fathers (“daddy months”). Men with care responsibilities also have the right to request flexible working time arrangements such as a reduction of working hours, flexitime and telework.

Cartoon, a woman and a man holding a puzzle piece together in order to complete the puzzle

Care responsibilities

Although more and more women are employed and increase their working hours, they still assume  the bulk of private domestic and care work. Care responsibilities are still borne mostly by women but should be shared more equally with men. This concerns both children and other family members in need of care. These care needs can be more or less time intensive and can be temporary or permanent.

Working arrangements need to allow for better reconciliation between work and private life. In addition, the availability of affordable and high quality care infrastructure is also crucial to facilitate women’s engagement in paid work. Wider access to high-quality care services (e.g. childcare and long-term care) should ensure more opportunities for women to enter or stay in employment. It also reduces the risk of poverty and social exclusion among older women, children and vulnerable groups.

The EC report on childcare reveals that the EU countries have reached the Barcelona objectives. The Barcelona targets:

  • 33% of children under the age of 3 participating in childcare;
  • 90% of children between 3 and mandatory school-going age participating in childcare.

This average however reveals some differences across the different EU countries. Find more statistics on childcare in the EU.

Availability of affordable and high quality care is one of the issues considered in the European Semester, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Structural Investment Funds.

 

Gender segregation in the labour market

The uneven concentration of women and men in different sectors of the labour market is a persistent problem in the EU. 3 in 10 women work in education, health and social work (8% of men), which are traditionally low-paid sectors. On the other hand, almost a third of men is employed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (7% of women), which are higher-paid sectors.

Find more statistics on the gender segregation.

 

Gender balance in decision-making

Employed women hardly make it to the top: they are underrepresented in political and economic decision-making positions. For instance, women accounted for 6.7 % of board chairs and 6.5 % of CEOs in October 2018.

Achieving gender balance in decision-making.

 

Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes in all spheres of life influence very much people’s choices of work they do and how they can combine it with private life. They are at the root of occupational, sectoral, time and hierarchical segregation between women and men. 

Gender stereotypes related to the division of care responsibilities usually turn out to be detrimental

for women and their career paths. Women opt for part-time work more often, with consequences for their life-long income, including pension, and with impact on their career possibilities. Likewise, stereotypical masculinity norms hinder men from fully participating in parenthood, and in caregiving in a wider sense.

We need to build a future Europe where girls and boys can choose freely their education and profession.

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