The extent of participation in the labour market

In a society primarily characterised as a market-dependence regime, such as the USA, market criteria are likely to determine who will work and who will take care of the children. Having a stronger position in the market and being free of childcare responsibilities (normatively as well as practically), men are expected to allocate most of their time to labour market activity. Women are more constrained in their time allocation decisions and are compelled to weigh the costs and benefits of market activity against household responsibilities and obligations [Gro77] [Bec81]. Consequently, a strong degree of selection of women in the market is anticipated, based on expected rewards and on their orientation toward work [Han95]. Childcare arrangements that enable women to allocate more of their time to the labour force largely depend on private initiatives in these regimes. They are therefore subject to the forces of supply and demand [Gus94], further increasing the degree of selection to paid employment.

The individual-independence regime is characterised by high state support for the welfare of all citizens and strong encouragement of the dual-earner model. Accordingly, the state is committed to increasing equality among all citizens and social regulations therefore tend to override market principles. Under this regime, women have more independence and are more equal in relation to men, mainly through their work on the labour market. State support (in the form of publicly funded or subsidised day-care facilities) allows women to combine work and family and to participate in the labour market in a similar manner to men. The state also enforces gender-equality measures in the labour market through special laws and regulations. The anticipated consequence is high participation rates for women, and for mothers in particular, in the labour force. Nonetheless, while aimed at enhancing women’s opportunities for labour force participation, a universal benefit system for parents may also promote the incorporation of less committed workers into the labour force [Han95]. This has implications for the types of jobs women will hold, and it partly explains the higher concentration of women in the public sector and in female-dominated occupations [Han95] [Man05].

The state-dependence regime supports a traditional division of labour between the genders, both normatively and institutionally. As stated earlier, the state provides the basic welfare, but no attempt is made on the state’s part to eliminate gender inequalities. On the contrary, the expectation is that the traditional family, with a male breadwinner, will provide for all family members [Esp99]. The state intervenes (through public assistance programmes) when the family fails. Women in these countries are perceived as being the main carers of children and families, and family-related policies, including the tax regime, encourage women to withdraw from market activity (or limit their involvement), especially when they have young children. Concomitantly, in these countries, mothers are expected to exhibit high levels of part-time employment and high rates of interruption to employment following childbirth. Employment, in other words, is expected to vary over women's life course.

Although the general ideology regarding the gender division of labour in the family-dependence regime is similar to that present in the state-dependence regime, the rate of women's employment in countries characterised by a family-dependence regime is expected to be lower, since direct support from the state is missing in this regime. Table 2-2, for example, shows that in Germany the state supports 14 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and allows for two more years of leave at a flat rate based on means (income) testing. In Greece, the state provides 17 weeks of paid leave but covers only 50% of the woman's salary.

Go to next page >>