B. Gender equality, employment and part-time work in developed economies1
Differentials in labour market outcomes by sex are pervasive around the world, and affect both the volume and the quality of employment. As stated in a report for the 2009 International Labour Conference:2
...Women experience systemic barriers in almost every aspect of work – this ranges from whether they have paid work at all (full-time or part-time); the type of work they obtain or are excluded from; the availability of support such as childcare; their pay, benefits and conditions of work; their access to higher paying “male” occupations; the insecurity of their jobs or enterprises; the absence of pension entitlements or benefits; and the lack of the time, resources or information necessary to enforce their rights...
Systemic barriers are exemplified by differentials in the volume of employment as captured by the employment-to-population ratio (the proportion of the working age population that is employed). At the regional level, the gap between male and female employment-to-population ratios in 2010 ranged from 47.2 percentage points in the Middle East to 11.7 percentage points in East Asia,3 and male employment-to-population ratios are higher than female ratios in virtually all countries of the world.4 Although this gap has shown a declining trend in almost all regions, at the global level it still amounted to 23.7 percentage points in 2010, compared with 26.7 percentage points in 1991. The gap between male and female ratios often is a sign of gender-based differentials in the type of work, wages and employment conditions, in turn pointing at the multidimensional nature of gender inequalities.5
This section explores gender inequality in the volume of employment in developed economies. As a regional grouping, the developed economies take the second position in terms of the smallest gender gap in employment-to-population ratios, following only East Asia. Nevertheless, the average gap at 13.1 percentage points in 2010 indicates sizeable inequality. The average gap also masks larger ones in many countries, reflecting variations in cultures, institutions and policies among developed economies. Important differences between labour markets in developed economies as a group and those in developing economies include the high proportion of wage and salaried workers (employees), and within this group the considerable number of part-time workers.6 As part-time work in developed economies is predominantly female, and can be seen as a manifestation of continuing pressures for women to accommodate care and reconcile work and family life,7 it is essential to take the distinction between part-time work and full-time work into consideration in an assessment of gender inequality.
The main finding in this section is the ambiguous relationship between part-time employment and gender equality in the volume of employment. On the one hand, cross-section analysis shows that part-time work is associated with a higher volume of female employment in terms of the employment-to-population ratio, and the risk for “crowding out” in terms of numbers of hours worked, as a result of substitution of full-time by part-time work, appears to be limited. On the other hand, and in contrast to full-time employment, rising part-time employment rates are not associated with smaller gender gaps in employment-to-population ratios. An important factor limiting the effect of part-time work on gender equality is the association between female part-time work and male employment.
Part-time work creates an additional inequality in the labour market (differentials in average hours worked by sex), to the extent that it is mostly women who are employed part-time. Gender policies regarding the volume of employment should therefore include objectives regarding part-time work. This section illustrates how selected policy interventions impact on female and male part-time and full-time work, and relates these interventions to the literature on gender policy models in developed economies.
The section is structured as follows: Part 2 provides an overview of employment patterns and gender inequality in developed economies, distinguishing between part-time and full-time employment. Part 3 examines part-time work more closely, focusing on objectives that would facilitate a strong role for part-time employment in achieving gender equality. Part 4 links the employment patterns to selected policy instruments that can be used to help shape the gender balance in the volume of employment. Part 5 concludes, and discusses some policy implications.
We use the absolute difference between male and female employment-to-population ratios (EPRs) as the main measure to assess gender inequality in the volume of employment in 36 developed economies.8 In comparison with the use of levels (i.e. female employment-to-population ratios), the use of absolute differences has the advantage of correcting for differences in national employment-to-population ratios between countries that are unrelated to gender differences in the labour market. For example, national EPRs are affected by years of schooling, the (legal) retirement age, and other country-specific factors which may influence entry into or exit from the labour market for both men and women on an equal basis.9 It should be noted that the use of absolute differences disregards the level at which the difference occurs, which means that the 10 percentage point difference between a male EPR of 80 per cent and a female EPR of 70 per cent is considered the same in terms of inequality as the difference between 60 and 50 per cent.10 The use of EPRs for the age group 15 and above in this section also masks underlying differentials in labour market outcomes by age group, which are important in many countries (see KILM 2).
As shown in the scatterplot in figure B1a, male EPRs exceed female EPRs in all countries, with male ratios ranging from 56.5 to 79.0 per cent and female ratios from 30.3 to 69.1 per cent. Given the correlation between male and female ratios in the figure, it is not surprising that EPR gaps tend to decrease if the male or the female EPR increases, as shown in figure B1b. However, only the relationship between the EPR gap and the female EPR is (statistically) significant (higher female EPRs are associated with a smaller EPR gap). In other words, the figure shows that an increase in female employment lowers the EPR gap in the sample of countries, despite the fact that such an increase may also be related to an increase in the male EPR.
The employment-to-population ratio is defined as the proportion of a country’s working age population that is employed, and therefore includes both those who are employed full-time and those employed part-time. As the number of part-time workers is considerable in many developed economies, it is important to take part-time employment into account in an assessment of gender differentials in the volume of employment. For this purpose, the employment-to-population ratio can be split into two components: a “full-time employment-to-population ratio” and a “part-time employment-to-population ratio”.11
Table B1 shows gender inequality as captured by the gap between female and male EPRs. In the table, the sample of countries has been divided into terciles with “large”, “medium” and “small” gaps in the EPR.12 The second main variable in the table, the female part-time employment-to-population ratio, has also been divided into three groups (with “high”, “medium” and “low” part-time EPRs). Finally, the table shows the levels of the female full-time and part-time EPRs which add up to the “overall” female EPR. Based on table B1, a number of employment patterns can be observed in the developed economies.
Figure B1a. Correlation between male and female EPRs in developed economies, 2008
Figure B1b. EPR gaps and male/female EPRs in developed economies, 2008
Note: The x-coefficients of the regression line in figure B1a and the line for females in figure B1b are significant at the 99 per cent confidence level.
Source: Author’s calculations based on KILM table 2b.
Table B1. Gender gaps in EPRs and female part-time employment-to-population ratios in developed economies, 2008
Note: Employment-to-population ratios are based on the population aged 15 and above, except for Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Norway and Romania, which are based on the population aged 15-74; Iceland (16-74); Sweden (16-64) and the United States (16 and above); data for Israel refer to 2007.
Source: Author’s calculations based on KILM tables 2b and 6.
As noted before, a smaller EPR gap between men and women is associated with a higher female EPR as indicated by the row averages in table B1, which increase from 44.9 per cent in the group of countries with a large EPR gap to 56.4 per cent in the countries with a small EPR gap. The same holds true for the female full-time EPR, which also increases if the gap between male and female EPRs decreases.13 However, the average female part-time EPR increases between the rows with low and medium EPR gaps, before decreasing for the countries with a large gap. In other words, there is ambiguity in the relationship between part-time employment and gender equality.
This ambiguity occurs despite a generally positive relationship between female part-time employment and the volume of female work. Table B1 suggests that higher female part-time employment-to-population ratios are associated with higher female EPRs, and the risk that part-time work “crowds out” full-time work in terms of hours worked appears limited. The (column) average female EPR increases by 9.9 percentage points between the countries with low female part-time EPRs and those with high female part-time EPRs, while the increase in the part-time EPR (16.5 points) more than compensates for the decrease in the full-time EPR (6.6 points).14 Nevertheless, a comparison of column averages between countries with low and medium part-time EPRs suggests that some crowding out may occur. Research does point at the risk for substitution between part-time and full-time work for prime-aged women.15
The ambiguous relationship between female part-time work and gender inequality can be illustrated further if we consider groups of countries in different cells in table B1. Starting from the countries at the bottom-middle cell, which are countries with medium female part-time employment ratios and low gender inequality, an increase in the part-time EPR is not necessarily beneficial. The reason is that a move from the bottom-middle to either of the two upper cells at the right-hand side implies an increase in the female part-time EPR which is more than offset by the decrease in the full-time EPR (i.e. substitution of full-time work by part-time work occurs). However, starting from the countries in the upper-middle cell, which are countries with medium part-time EPRs and high gender inequality, an increase of the part-time employment ratio would have unequivocally beneficial effects: in all three cells to the right of these countries not only is the part-time EPR higher, but the same is true for the full-time EPR and by implication the (overall) EPR, thus raising the volume of female employment (in terms of both numbers of people and hours of work).
The rise of the part-time employment ratio would also reduce gender inequality if countries move to the medium or low inequality row. The positive or neutral effect of a rise in the female part-time EPR on gender equality is due to both the high level of gender inequality in the countries of the upper-middle cell and the very low level of the female full-time EPR for these countries. In other words, the potential effects of part-time employment creation on gender equality depend on the initial position of the country.
A comparison between countries in the upper-middle cell to the cell at their immediate right illustrates another ambiguity in the relationship between part-time work and gender inequality. Despite an almost doubling of the female part-time EPR (and a large increase of the female full-time EPR), gender inequality remains at the same high level (a similar observation can be made with regard to the bottom row in table B1). This is due to the use of absolute differences between the female and the male EPR as a measure of gender inequality. Between the upper-middle cell and the cell at the upper-right hand side, the underlying male EPR increases by 9.6 percentage points (which is not shown in the table). As illustrated in figure B2, this increase is primarily related to the female part-time EPR. Contrary to the female full-time EPR, the part-time EPR is positively correlated with the male EPR.16 This positive correlation, together with the possibility of substitution between part-time and full-time work, allows for an increasing part-time employment-to-population ratio in each row of table B1 (thus maintaining the same level of inequality).
Figure B2. Male EPR and female part-time/full-time EPRs in developed economies, 2008
Note: The x-coefficient of the part-time regression line is significant at the 99 per cent confidence level.
Source: Author’s calculations based on KILM tables 2b and 6.
Some minor changes in relative positions of countries will occur frequently over time in table B1,17 but more structural shifts in gender equality and the volume of (female) employment are the outcome of a set of economic, social and cultural factors, including employment policies regulating part-time and full-time work. The remainder of this paper looks into some of these factors and policies.
Based on cross-section analysis, it was shown in the previous part that the volume of part-time work is an important factor in shaping (female) employment patterns, and in general contributes to the volume of female employment. The relationship between part-time employment and gender equality in the volume of employment is more ambiguous, and depends not only on the extent to which part-time employment substitutes for full-time employment, but also on the starting position of countries in terms of gender inequality as well as on the relationship between male and female employment volumes. Furthermore, if part-time work falls short of full-time work in terms of wages or employment conditions, this would add to existing inequality between male and female quality of employment.
In addition, even if an increase in female part-time employment and the female part-time employment rate in a particular country would unequivocally reduce gender inequality in terms of the volume of employment (reducing the gap between both male and female employment-to-population ratios and total male and female hours of work), this would still raise gender inequality in terms of average hours worked per person (unless the increase in the female part-time employment rate would be matched by the male part-time employment rate). This has happened in the Netherlands, which has been successful in expanding employment opportunities through part-time work. During the period 1970 to 2000 the growth in the number of mostly female part-time working hours in this country can be shown to have positive effects on the total number of working hours (and contributed to lowering the unemployment rate).18 During the same period, the gender gap in employment-to-population ratios was reduced considerably as the female employment-to-population ratio rose from very low levels to above the European average, with a more limited movement of the male ratio.19 However, despite the fact that the Netherlands not only has the highest female but also the highest male part-time employment rate among developed economies, the gender gap in part-time employment rates has become the largest in the regional grouping. While the majority of women in the Netherlands work part-time,20 the large majority of men continue to work full-time.
In view of these considerations, the following objectives would facilitate a role of part-time employment in reducing gender inequality:
(1) Equivalence between full-time and part-time work in terms of wages and working conditions;
(2) Freely-chosen part-time work; and
(3) Convergence of male and female part-time employment rates at higher levels of female part-time employment.
The first objective summarizes the main thrust of the ILO Part-Time Work Convention (No. 175), which in turn builds on other Conventions and Recommendations with relevance for part-time workers.21 In accordance with this Convention, many developed economies have introduced policies to improve the quality of part-time work and to facilitate the mobility between part-time and full-time work, even though not all countries have introduced the “whole package” and in some countries implementation may have been weak.22
The second objective is embodied in many ILO Conventions, and is explicitly stated in Convention No. 175 (Article 9). There are several reasons why this objective has particular relevance with regard to part-time employment. Most part-time workers have chosen to do so “voluntarily”, but in many countries a significant proportion of these workers would like to work full-time, which means that part-time is not freely chosen.23 Furthermore, crisis-induced “part-time (un)employment” clearly contradicts this condition,24 and the Convention does not consider workers in this situation to be part-time workers but rather full-time workers affected by partial unemployment (Article 1).
The objective that part-time work should be freely chosen, and the transfer between full-time and part-time work should be voluntary, suggests that part-time work should be available in a broad range of sectors and occupations. Taking again the Netherlands as an example, there is indeed a wide variety of choice in part-time work across sectors and occupations in the country, and segmentation between part-time and full-time work is less than segmentation by sex. This means that part-time work is not limited to low-skilled work in particular sectors, and part-time workers can be found in managerial and professional occupations in all sectors of the economy.25 This is the result of what has been called a “strategy of normalization of part-time work”, in which the social partners played a key role in supporting the expansion of part-time work.26 Without such broad support, and a positive attitude towards part-time work, there is a risk that the market for part-time work is perceived as a “secondary labour market”, in particular in countries with low part-time employment rates, even if legislation and regulations would suggest otherwise. Although both objectives (1) and (2) are equally relevant for male and female part-timers, given the fact that part-time employment is predominantly female, women stand to gain more.
It was mentioned above that part-time employment raises the differential by sex in the average hours worked per person as the incidence of part-time employment among women is high. Partly, this reflects a choice, like in the case of young women combining part-time work and study. Partly, it is imposed by “external constraints”, such as an unequal distribution of (caring) tasks within the household. Therefore, a more equal distribution between part-time and full-time labour for both men and women would facilitate a gender balance between working time and other responsibilities. In other words, apart from a desirable convergence between male and female employment-to-population rates, it would be desirable if part-time employment rates (or part-time employment-to-population ratios) would converge as well.
The objective of convergence between male and female part-time employment rates should not hamper access to employment for women. As part-time employment growth in developed economies was initially driven by women, both in the sense of advocacy for policies that allow part-time employment to grow and in the sense of working part-time, a divergence between male and female part-time employment rates has been inevitable. However, once progress has been made in securing better access to employment for women through part-time employment, it becomes increasingly important to consider the inequality generated by part-time work itself if it continues to be mostly women who are working part-time.
A close look at the development of male and female part-time employment rates in recent years suggests that progress towards the third objective has been uneven. In the majority of countries in table B1 with available time series, national part-time employment rates have been increasing during the period 2000–08, alongside a convergence in male and female part-time employment rates. This convergence is due to a declining female part-time employment rate in a majority of developed countries, but an even larger share of countries shows an increasing male part-time employment rate (resulting in a continued overall growth of part-time employment).
However, contrary to the third objective suggested above, this convergence does not depend on the level of part-time employment but rather is strongly correlated with the level of gender inequality as captured by the gender gap in EPRs. As shown in figure B3, during 2000–08, convergence between male and female part-time employment rates occurred particularly in countries that have achieved a low level of gender inequality. In some of these countries, the achievement of the other two objectives may have contributed to convergence in part-time employment rates including through a broader acceptance of male part-time employment.
Figure B3. Changes in the gender gap in part-time employment rates, 2000–08 (percentage points)
Source: Table B1 and author’s calculations based on KILM table 6.
The literature on the impact of public policies on gender equality in labour markets is extensive and includes attempts to characterize welfare states’ orientation towards women’s employment and related policies. Both such characterizations, and the extent to which they explain labour market outcomes, depend on the choice of indicator(s) to assess inequality, the choice of dimensions to characterize policy regimes, as well as on the sample of countries under consideration. The literature points at the difficulties in doing justice to the many nuances at the country level. Therefore, no attempt is made here to assess all developed countries according to welfare policy regimes that impact on labour market outcomes by sex, but some policy patterns can be identified drawing on the literature as well as selected policy indicators, which help explain the employment patterns highlighted in the previous parts of this section.
A starting point is the concept of the “male breadwinner model”, which used to be the dominant model in many developed economies. In ideal-typical form this model would “… find married women excluded from the labour market, firmly subordinated to their husbands for the purposes of social security entitlements and tax, and expected to undertake the work of caring (for children and other dependants) at home without public support”.27 The OECD family database shows that the importance of the male breadwinner model has diminished in many countries, but that sole-earners households in 2007 still represented over 40 per cent of coupled families with children aged 0-14 in the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan and Spain.28 With the exception of Hungary, these countries are all in the group of countries with large gaps between male and female EPRs (table B1).
Southern European countries are sometimes considered a separate group in typologies of social policy regimes in view of the high degree of “familialism”,29 which refers to the role of the families in the provision of social services.30 There are several ways to support the provision of such services outside the family (sometimes called “defamilialization” of social services) and, in this way, to lessen the constraints for women to participate in labour markets. Based on the level of public care services provided and the level of family support through transfers, Korpi identifies three broad types of gender policies, namely the “dual-earner model”, the “general family support model” and the “market-oriented model”.31 These three broad types can be associated with Esping-Andersen’s well-known typology of “social-democratic”, “conservative” and “liberal” regimes.32
North American countries, and in particular the United States, are often used as an example of the market-oriented model or liberal regime, but gender policy regimes in many other countries have been identified as market-oriented in the sense of relatively limited public provision of social services.33 The market-oriented model may support women’s employment through employment equity policies and facilitation of market provision through, for example, tax incentives or some direct subsidies. Market-oriented policies stand in stark contrast with the direct provision of services such as care for young children by the State, which is common in the dual earner model associated with the Nordic countries. Transfers to families are important in the general family support model which, to the extent that public services are absent, has traditionally been associated with conservative regimes and the male breadwinner model, in particular in many (non-Nordic) European countries.
Based on the same division into terciles with regard to the gap between male and female EPRs and the female part-time employment-to-population ratio used in table B1, table B2 shows selected policy indicators, which are related to the typologies discussed in the literature. The first two indicators – public spending on childcare and early education (as a percentage of GDP) and the full-time equivalent of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave (number of weeks) – are associated with dual-earner support. The highest values for spending on childcare are found in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) as well as in Belgium and France; with the exception of Belgium, all of these countries are in the group of countries with a small EPR gap. However, the same is true for the market-oriented North American countries as well as Slovenia,34 which spend below the table-average on childcare. This suggests that, to a certain extent, similar outcomes with regard to the EPR gap can be achieved by different sets of policies.35 Nevertheless, row averages in table B2 reflect that, in general, countries with a larger EPR gap spend less on childcare. A similar pattern can be observed with regard to paid maternity, paternity and parental leave, which tends to be longer in countries with smaller EPR gaps. Again, the North American countries stand out in the bottom row with short periods of leave, together with Iceland, but this time some of the countries with a large gap also stand out in the sense of leave-periods above the table-average (Czech Republic, Japan and Slovakia).
Table B2. Gender gaps in EPRs, female part-time employment-to-population ratios and selected family/workplace policies in developed economies
(1) Public spending on childcare and early education as a percentage of GDP, 2005
(2) Full-time equivalent of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave, number of weeks, 2006/2007
(3) Public spending on family benefits as a percentage of GDP, 2007
(4) Flexible working-time arrangements: employees having working time arrangements entirely set by the employee or the employee can adapt working hours within certain limits, percentage of all employees, 2005
Source: Table B1 and OECD Family Database, indicators PF3.1, PF2.1, PF1.1, LMF2.4 (http://www.oecd.org/els/social/family/database).
Public spending on family benefits (as a percentage of GDP) includes child-related cash transfers, services for families with children as well as support through the tax system. All developed economies spend considerable amounts on family benefits, ranging from 1.0 per cent of GDP in Malta to 3.7 per cent in Denmark and France. Despite the association of family policies with the male breadwinner model, table B2 shows that public spending on family benefits is much higher in the countries with small EPR gaps than in those with large EPR gaps, but, at the same time, the group with medium EPR gaps is, on average, spending most.
The overall negative relationship between public spending on family benefits and the EPR gap is confirmed in table B3, which shows the results of bivariate regressions between the four policy indicators in table B2 and the volume of male and female employment. Higher spending on family benefits is associated with smaller EPR gaps but, contrary to public spending on childcare, the policy indicator on family benefits is positively correlated with the female part-time employment-to-population ratio and not the female full-time EPR (in addition, the indicator is positively correlated with the male part-time EPR). The ambiguous relationship between part-time work and gender equality discussed in previous sections therefore helps to understand the pattern of row-averages in table B2. This pattern is also driven by the fact that all formerly centrally-planned economies have low part-time EPRs and, with the exceptions of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, have low spending on family benefits.
Flexible working-time arrangements feature less in the discourse on welfare policy regimes, but all the more in the literature on gender equality, as such arrangements can play a key role in families’ ability to reconcile work and family life. The indicator on flexible working time arrangements (the proportion of employees having working time arrangements entirely set by themselves or where the employee can adapt working hours within certain limits, as a percentage of all employees) is associated with smaller EPR gaps, and with higher female part-time EPRs as well as (to a lesser extent) male part-time EPRs (tables B2 and B3). In comparison with the other policy indicators, the indicator on flexible working time arrangements has stronger explanatory power, in particular with regard to the part-time EPR (table B3).
Table B3. EPR gaps, male/female EPRs and selected policy measures in developed economies: Results of bivariate regressions
||Male-female gap (percentage points)||Females (%)||Males (%)|
|EPR||Full-time EPR||Part-time EPR||EPR||Full-time EPR||Part-time EPR||EPR||Full-time EPR||Part-time EPR|
|Child care (% GDP)||regression coefficient||-8.9||-11.6||10.1||11.2|
|Paid leave (number of weeks)||regression coefficient||-0.1||-0.2||0.1||0.1||-0.1||-0.1||-0.04|
|Family benefits (% GDP)||regression coefficient||-2.7||-2.6||4.1||3.4||**0.9|
|Flexible working time (% of employees)||regression coefficient||-0.2||-0.3||0.4||0.4||0.2||0.1|
Note: The regression coefficients in the table show the difference in EPR gaps and EPRs associated with 1 per cent of GDP spending on child care, 1 week paid leave, etc.; all coefficients are significant at conventional levels.
Source: Author’s calculations based on tables B1 and B2.
The highest proportions of flexible working time arrangements are found in the Nordic countries for which data are available, the Netherlands and Switzerland, with Sweden the only country in the sample where more than half of all employees have flexible working-time arrangements. In the Netherlands, such arrangements are part of what has become known as a “combination model”, which suggests a balanced combination of paid and unpaid work, with the unpaid care work equally shared between men and women. In the words of Orloff:36
...under the rubric of a ‘combination model’, women’s employment is definitely being promoted, as is men’s care; however, care services have not yet been extensively developed. Instead of a greater development of public services to allow high levels of employment, the Dutch seem to be saying they will cut back on employment to allow care. It is unclear whether or not this will prove compatible with gender equality, for women are still scaling back more than are men, but one should note that Dutch men have the highest levels of part-time work in Europe, and regulations about work time are being reformed to allow flexibility from the point of view of workers.
The Dutch combination model has been successful in promoting male part-time employment, and in this way, to a certain extent, may facilitate a more equal sharing of unpaid care work between men and women, but, as was noted in the previous section, the model has been less successful in reducing the gap in male and female part-time EPRs. As shown in table B3, with the exception of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave, the policy indicators either have no effect on the gap in part-time EPRs, or tend to raise this gap. In the case of paid leave there is a positive association between longer leave-periods and smaller gaps in part-time EPRs, but this seems primarily due to a shift from part-time to full-time work by women, while male part-time work tends to decrease if leave-periods increase.
The four policy indicators at best capture the main trust of the types of gender policies models that are highlighted in the literature, and EPRs by definition capture only the volume of employment. Additional labour market indicators can be examined to obtain a fuller picture of the labour market impact of gender policies, but many indicators are not readily available for the full set of countries under discussion in this section. In a recent study of a sample of 14 countries, Mandel identifies clusters of countries in accordance with social-democratic, conservative and liberal regimes mentioned before,37 and a selection of the indicators used in this study is shown in table B4.
Table B4. Means of selected labour market indicators in three clusters of countries
|Labour force participation rate (%) - all women aged 25-60||80||71||56 (41)|
|Labour force participation rate (%) - mothers of pre-schoolers aged 0-6||78||63||50 (42)|
|Dual-earner households (%)||85||68||48 (28)|
|Male breadwinner households (%)||9||21||39 (58)|
| Occupational segregation
(index of dissimilarity)
|Gender wage gap (%)||16||20||11 (7)|
|Proportion of working women in the top quintile of the earning distribution (%)||11||13||16 (19)|
|Proportion of working women in the bottom quintile of the earning distribution (%)||27||27||25 (25)|
|Poverty rate among lone mothers (%)||6||49||26 (23)|
Cluster 1: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden
Cluster 2: Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States
Cluster 3: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain (figures between brackets refer to Italy and Spain only)
Source: H. Mandel: “Configurations of gender inequality: the consequences of ideology and public policy”, in British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 60, No. 4, 2009, Table 1, p. 700.
Similar to the pattern of employment-to-population rates in tables B2 and B3, table B4 points at the high labour force participation of women in the social-democratic countries in comparison with the two other clusters, and especially in comparison with the conservative cluster. The same is true with regard to the proportion of dual-earner households. But labour markets in the social democratic countries are also characterized by higher levels of segregation by sex and limitations in access to positions of authority for women, as reflected in the proportion of working women in the top quintile of the earning distribution.38 Mandel notes the large gaps in wages between men and women in market-oriented/liberal countries, which he attributes to lack of regulation of employment conditions and earnings, which is particularly detrimental for weaker labour market groups in which women are overrepresented. Both segregation and gender wage gaps are lowest in Italy and Spain, and the same is true with regard to wage gaps in the larger group of conservative countries in comparison with the other two clusters. Italy and Spain are also the countries with the lowest labour force participation rates in the sample. Mandel observes:39
Substantively, it is often the case that the very success of one element of a welfare regime is the source of the inadequacies of another. The gender segregation characteristic of the labour market in Scandinavia indirectly results from the state’s success in eliminating the gender gap in labour force participation. In the conservative countries, women’s relative success in penetrating positions of power is explained by the selectivity of the female work force, that is, the barriers that discourage many women from entering the labour market in the first place. In the liberal context, the burden placed on economically disadvantaged women is the consequence of the very same policy that has enabled relatively advantaged women to attain high rewards in the labour market.
Mandel’s observations underline the multidimensional nature of gender inequality, and the apparent trade-offs between gender policies and labour market outcomes. All three policy regimes that are commonly used as a reference framework are associated with certain less desirable outcomes in terms of quantity and/or quality of female employment.40
This section has mostly focused on the quantity of employment in developed economies, and in particular on the role of part-time work in reducing gender inequality. Part-time work has vastly expanded employment opportunities for women, but the relationship between part-time work and gender equality is less straightforward. The analysis shows that the effect of an increase in the part-time employment-to-population rate on inequality depends on the existing level of inequality in a given country as well as the level of the female EPR. In other words, part-time work can be of greater importance for gender equality if there is a large gap between male and female EPRs, and female EPRs are at a low level.
The ambiguous relationship between part-time work and gender inequality limits the possibilities for improving the position of women in labour markets (through part-time work promotion) to the extent that it is due to (the risk of) substitution between part-time and full-time work. But this ambiguity is also due to a positive characteristic of part-time work, namely the flexibility part-time work allows in combining work with other activities. The positive correlation between the female part-time EPR and the male EPR demonstrates that different levels of labour demand (between countries) can be accommodated by labour supply through simultaneous variations in (predominantly male) full-time work and (predominantly female) part-time work. These simultaneous movements of male and female EPRs are unlikely to happen in the case of female full-time employment unless policies are put in place or strengthened that allow women to work full-time, such as the provision of child care or measures that encourage equal sharing of unpaid care work between men and women.
It has been argued that a stronger role of part-time work in achieving gender equality would be facilitated by the adoption of part-time employment objectives, some of which are already embodied in ILO Conventions. The objective of convergence between male and female part-time employment rates at higher levels of female part-time work aims to prevent (growing) inequality in the sense of differentials in average hours worked per person by sex. To some extent such convergence is already happening, as part-time employment growth is increasingly driven by male part-time work, but not necessarily in countries with high part-time EPRs. Rather, the achievement of a certain level of gender equality seems important for such convergence to occur.
Simple correlations between policy indicators and labour market outcomes should not be taken as causal relationships, and the economic logic of some of the relationships discussed in this section seems stronger than others. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that these indicators affect the balance between male and female employment creation at the country level, and should feature in the continued search for an appropriate mix of policies to achieve gender equality.
1. This section was prepared by Theo Sparreboom of the ILO Employment Trends Team. Research assistance was provided by Derk van Wijk.
2. Gender equality at the heart of decent work, Report VI for the 98th Session of the International Labour Conference, 2009, p. viii.
3. See table A5 in ILO: Global Employment Trends 2011: The challenge of a jobs recovery (Geneva, January 2011).
4. Among the exceptions are several sub-Saharan African countries and one South-East Asian country during the 1980s and 1990s, where the female employment-to-population ratio exceeded the male ratio in one or more years (see KILM table 2). The high ratios in these countries primarily point at a large decent work deficit for both women and men, but also show that the volume of employment is not the main gender issue there.
5. For an analysis of global and regional gender inequality using the series of labour market indicators available in the KILM, see ILO: Women in labour markets: Measuring progress and identifying challenges (Geneva, March 2010).
6. Working short hours is widespread in developing countries as well, but given the low proportion of wage and salaried workers, part-time work in developing countries consists mostly of own-account work and unpaid family work. See KILM 7 and S. Lee, D. McCann and J.C. Messenger: Working time around the world: Trends in working hours, laws and policies in a global comparative perspective (Geneva, ILO, 2007).
7. See A.S. Orloff: “Women’s employment and welfare regimes: Globalization, export orientation and social policy in Europe and North America”, Social Policy and Development Programme Paper, No. 12 (Geneva, UNRISD, 2002).
8. Consisting of all developed economies with recent data in KILM table 2b at the time of production of the KILM 7th Edition.
9. To illustrate this point, the variation between the highest and the lowest male EPR in developed economies is more than 20 percentage points.
10. Alternatively, an analysis can be conducted in terms of relative gaps, using, for example, the absolute difference in ratios divided by the female employment-to-population ratio. This would place a “premium” on relatively high female ratios.
11. Note that the “part-time employment-to-population ratio” is different from the more conventional part-time employment rate, as the latter measures the number of part-time workers as a proportion of all workers, and not as a proportion of the working age population (see KILM 6).
12 The use of terciles allows for an analysis of employment patterns as opposed to a focus on the ranking of individual countries. A drawback of this method is that relatively small changes in the EPR gender gap of countries may result in a different classification of some of these countries.
13. Similar to figure B1b, in the linear regression between the EPR gap and the female full-time EPR, the x-coefficient is significant at the 99 per cent confidence level.
14. The cut-off for part-time work is 30 hours per week, which suggests that, expressed in absolute percentage points, an increase in the part-time EPR of around 2.5 times the decrease in the full-time EPR between countries with low and high part-time EPRs can be expected to increase the number of hours worked, unless hours worked in part-time jobs are on average very low or average hours of full-time work are very high.
16. Although the relationship is significant at the 99 per cent confidence level, not more than one third of the variance is explained by this relationship.
17. For example, the difference between the “large” gender gap in EPRs in Switzerland and the “medium” gap in Austria amounts to 0.1 percentage points. Such a small difference makes it likely that the relative position of these countries frequently changes on a yearly basis. Countries with EPR gaps that are closer to the cell-averages are less likely to change their position frequently, as the range between the smallest and the largest gender gap among countries with “large” EPR gaps is almost 18 percentage points. This again underlines the importance of focusing on patterns and cells as opposed to individual countries.
18. See G. van Lomwel and J.C. van Ours: “On the employment effects of part-time labor”, CentER Discussion Paper No. 2003-04, Tilburg University.
19. See J. Visser: “The first part-time economy in the world: A model to be followed?”, in Journal of European Social Policy, 12 (1), 2002, pp. 23-42.
20. As can be seen in table B1, the Netherlands is the only country in which the female part-time EPR exceeds the female full-time EPR (in other words, the female part-time employment rate exceeds 50 per cent).
21. The Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951, the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958, the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention and Recommendation, 1981, the Employment Promotion and Protection against Unemployment Convention, 1988, and the Employment Policy (Supplementary Provisions) Recommendation, 1984.
22 OECD: “How good is part-time work?”, op. cit.
23. See KILM 12, which confirms that in most countries the share of involuntary part-time employment in total employment is higher for women than men.
24. On crisis induced part-time work and unemployment, see Box 3 in Global Employment Trends 2011: The challenge of a jobs recovery (Geneva, ILO, January 2011).
25. See T. Sparreboom and V. Bourmpoula: “How normal is part-time work in the Netherlands?”, paper presented at the 6th Annual International Symposium on Economic Theory, Policy and Applications, Athens, July 2011.
26. M. Yerkes and J. Visser: “Women’s preferences or delineated policies? The development of part-time work in the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom”, in J.-Y. Boulin, M. Lallement, J.C. Messenger, F. Michon: Decent working time. New trends, new issues (Geneva, ILO, 2006).
27. J. Lewis: “Gender and the development of welfare regimes”, in Journal of European Social Policy, Vol. 2, No.3, 1992, p. 162.
29. M.J. Gonzalez, T. Jurado and M. Naldini (eds.): Gender inequalities in Southern Europe: Women, work and welfare in the 1990s (London, Frank Cass, 2000).
30 As suggested by table B2, which shows Portugal as part of the group of countries with medium EPR gaps, the situation in this country is different from Greece, Italy and Spain, which are in the group with large gaps. One of the reasons may be the much lower income per capita in Portugal, which makes it more difficult for women to be economically inactive. See, also, A.S. Orloff, op. cit., p. 10.
31. W. Korpi: “Faces of inequality: Gender, class, and patterns of inequalities in different types of Welfare States”, in Social Politics, No. 7, 2000, pp. 127–191.
32. G. Esping-Andersen: Social foundations of post-industrial economies (Oxford, New York, 1999).
33. In his seminal paper, Korpi, op. cit., noting some of the limitations that have been mentioned in the main text regarding typologies, arrives at the following groups of countries: the market-oriented group includes Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States; the dual earner support model group includes Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden; and the general family support model group includes Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands. For an insightful discussion, see Orloff, op. cit.
34. The OECD indicator may underestimate total spending on childcare if spending of local governments is not adequately captured, which is of particular relevance in federal countries including Canada and the United States (see “Comparability and data issues” in OECD Family database, indicator PF3.1).
35. Canada, Slovenia and the United States have “small” EPR gaps in tables B1 and B2, but in the case of the latter two the difference in comparison with the most unequal country of the medium group is small (0.5 and 0.3 percentage points, respectively). The EPR gap in Slovenia is 12.1 percentage points, and in the United States 12.3 percentage points, compared to an average of 7.6 points for the Nordic countries and 9.5 for all countries in the bottom row of the tables. The gap is 8.8 percentage points for Canada. See also footnote 17.
36. Orloff, op. cit., p.17.
37. H. Mandel: “Configurations of gender inequality: the consequences of ideology and public policy”, in British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 9, No. 4, 2009, pp. 693-719.
38. See, also, A.S. Orloff, op. cit.
39. Mandel, op. cit., p. 708.
40. The three policy regimes do not capture the experience of all developed economies, and in particular exclude policy models adopted by centrally-planned economies from the analysis.