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Chapter 3: The employment activity of women

As noted at the outset, women's employment increased substantially in most industrialised countries. During the 1960s and early 1970s, less than 40% percent of European women aged between 15 and 64 participated in paid employment, compared with almost 60% today.1 However, these average figures conceal great variations between countries. Several countries, such as Finland and Sweden, already had high rates of female labour force participation (55% and 60%, respectively) several decades ago and the rates rose to 72% and 65%, respectively, at the turn of the century. In other countries, such as Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands, the rates of female labour force participation were quite low (less than 30%) in the 1970s and they developed along divergent paths over time. In Italy, the rate of labour force participation is still low (45%), and in the Netherlands it has risen considerably (to 64%). Spain is somewhere in between, with approximately half of women participating in paid employment.

While women's relationship to economic activity has changed substantially, not much had changed in their care work. In all industrial countries, women still bear the chief responsibility for child rearing, irrespective of welfare regime and specific family and child policies. In fact, none of the public policies (not even in the most egalitarian countries) has been sufficiently effective to change the household division of labour between the genders [Sai96]. Thus, family obligations and the presence of children in particular limit women’s involvement in the economy. However, the rates for women's labour force participation and, in particular, their pattern of work, differ in accordance with work-family regimes and are affected by specific family and gender-oriented policies.

Page 1

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.

Page 2

Exercises 3.1 - 3.2

Exercise 3.1

To be able to do a T-test analysis, you need to have software (SPSS) installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.

Test the following hypotheses for Germany and Spain:

  1. Women in the labour force (working women) are more educated on average than women who are not in the labour force.
  2. The education gap between working and non-working women is larger in the family-dependence regime than in the state-dependence regime.

Procedure:

Questions:

  1. When you compare the mean number of years of schooling for working and non-working women in each country, do the results support the first hypothesis? Explain.
  2. When you examine the education gap between working and non-working women for each of the two countries, do the results support your second hypothesis? Explain.
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

* The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include women from Germany and Spain.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=(cntry ='DE' | cntry ='ES') & gender = 0.
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ 'cntry = DE or ES & gender = 0 (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE.
 
SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE, SEPARATE BY cntry.
 
T-TEST
GROUPS=work_sta(1 0)
/MISSING=ANALYSIS
/VARIABLES=eduyrs
/CRITERIA=CIN(.95).

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample solution

Answers

  1. The results support the first hypothesis, both in Germany and in Spain. In Germany, the mean number of years of schooling for women in the labour market is 13.7, and it is a year lower for women not in the labour market. This difference is statistically significant. The figures for Spain are 13.6 years of schooling among women in the labour force and 10.2 years for women not in the labour force. This difference is also statistically significant.
  2. The results support the second hypothesis, as the education gap in Spain is more than three years and only one year in Germany.

Exercise 3.2

  1. How does the presence of young children affect the likelihood that a woman will participate in the labour market, and how might this differ by regime type (examine women in the relevant age group which we define as 25-45)?
  2. Suggest hypotheses and test them using data from Germany Spain and Denmark.

Procedure:

Questions:

  1. Are women with children more or less likely to be working? Are the results consistent with your hypothesis?
  2. Are there differences in the relationship between the presence of children and women’s work status between the countries? Discuss the results in light of the second hypothesis.
Nesstar
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

* The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include women from Germany, Denmark and Spain in the age group 25-45.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=(cntry = 'DE' | cntry = 'DK' | cntry = 'ES') & (age>=25 & age <= 45) & gender=0.
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ '(cntry = DE OR DK OR ES) & (age>=25 & age <= 45) & gender=0 (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE.
 
SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE SEPARATE BY cntry.
 
CROSSTABS
/TABLES= work_sta BY children
/FORMAT= AVALUE TABLES
/STATISTIC=CHISQ PHI
/CELLS= COUNT COLUMN.

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample solution

Problem

First Hypothesis: The presence of children is likely to reduce the tendency for women to participate in the labour market in all countries.

Second Hypothesis: In the individual-independence regime (represented by Denmark), mothers are almost as likely to participate in the labour market as women without children, as this is encouraged by their ideology and institutional arrangements. The lowest participation of mothers in the labour market is likely in Germany, as the state-dependence regime encourages mothers to withdraw from the labour market and provides economic support. The likelihood of Spanish mothers participating in the labour market should be intermediate.

Answers

  1. The results are consistent with the first hypothesis. In all three countries, women with children are less likely to be in the labour market than women without children. For Germany, the figures are 42.8% and 73.2%, respectively. In Denmark, they are 76.1% and 69.1%, and in Spain 57.1% and 73.1%.
  2. The gap in terms of the likelihood of being in the labour market, between mothers and women without children, varies across countries. The results of the analysis support the second hypothesis, as the gap is narrowest in Denmark (and in the unexpected direction) and largest in Germany.
Page 3

Women’s part-time employment

Part-time employment is an important means of incorporating women into the market in all countries, irrespective of welfare regime.1 Part-time employment is frequently perceived by women as a way of coping with their multiple roles as mothers and workers. Employers also see advantages in women’s part-time employment since it reduces absenteeism and increases their flexibility [Bee87]. Nonetheless, family regimes differ in the prevalence of part-time employment, the type of jobs open to part-time employees, and in the public perception of part-time employment.

In the market-dependence regime, where individuals’ welfare is strongly linked to the labour market, one would expect part-time employment to be less common than in other regime types, as it constrains women’s ability to gain access to the better jobs that provide high earnings and opportunities for career advancement [Bee87] [Sun92]. This is mainly because part-time work is associated with precarious employment and is concentrated in a limited number of occupations and often in dead-end jobs. Furthermore, part-time employment is generally taken as signalling lower commitment to work than full time employment [Kis87]. As a result, women who work part-time are often denied entry to positions of authority and responsibility. We would therefore expect that in countries in which the market-dependence regime prevails there will be ‘positive’ self-selection of women to paid employment and only a minority of women will be in part-time employment. We also expect women in part-time employment to be concentrated in low-paying jobs.

The situation is likely to differ in other regimes. The individual-independence regime is committed to promoting women’s labour force participation. In this framework, part-time employment offers a way of maintaining the continuous involvement of mothers in the labour force. It is assumed that part-time employment during early motherhood is a transitional stage and that women will return to full-time employment. Concomitantly, employment conditions in part-time jobs are expected to be similar to those in full-time employment. This includes employment benefits, union protection, access to good jobs and an easy transition to full-time employment later in life [Sun97]. In this regime type, we therefore expect that part-time employment will be prevalent among women, that such an employment pattern will span a wide range of occupations, and that women in part-time employment will not be disadvantaged compared with women in full-time employment.

Part-time employment is of special significance under the state-dependence regime. It is perceived as being a solution to the incorporation of mothers into the labour force, without altering the gendered division of labour. Since women in these societies are expected to give higher priority to their parental role, part-time employment has a more permanent nature, and it is highly concentrated in female-type, secondary sectors of employment. As a result of state intervention in labour relations and the presence of strong unions, part-time workers enjoy employment benefits and union protection similar to that enjoyed by full time workers. High rates of part-time employment among women, and especially young mothers, are therefore expected in these societies. Lastly, in the family-dependence regime, the part-time employment rate will be low since mothers are not expected to participate in the labour force, and those who have no familial obligations and take part in the paid economy can do so on a full-time basis.

Page 4

Exercises 3.3 - 3.4

Exercise 3.3

  1. Develop a hypothesis concerning the prevalence of women’s part-time employment in Belgium and Spain (refer to the regime types each country represents).
  2. Test this hypothesis using the data.

Procedure:

Questions:

  1. Do the results of the cross-tabulation refute or support your hypothesis?
Nesstar
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

*The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include working women from Belgium and Spain.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=gender = 0 & work_sta = 1 & (cntry ='BE' | cntry ='ES').
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ 'gender = 0 & work_sta = 1 & (cntry = BE OR ES) (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE.

*SPLIT FILE splits the active dataset into subgroups that can be analysed separately.

SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE LAYERED BY cntry.
 
FREQUENCIES
VARIABLES=partime
/ORDER= ANALYSIS.

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample solution

Problem

Hypothesis: The state-dependence regime aims to incorporate women into the public sphere while maintaining their roles as the primary care-givers. In the family-dependence regime, there is little effort on the part of the state to accommodate the family and work roles of women. Based on these characteristics, one can expect a higher proportion of women to work part-time in Belgium than in Spain.

Answers

  1. The results support the above hypothesis. The proportion of working women in Belgium who work part-time is 48.7%, whereas the comparable figure for Spain is 20%.

Exercise 3.4

To be able to carry out an Independent Samples Test, you need to have software (SPSS) installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.

  1. Test the hypothesis that the form of employment (i.e. part-time vs. full-time) has greater consequences for women's earnings in the market-dependence regime than in the individual-independence regime.

Procedure:

Questions:

  1. Explain the rationale for the hypothesis stated above.
  2. Which regime does each of the countries represent?
  3. Do the results refute or support the hypothesis? Explain.
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

*The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include working women from the United Kingdom and Sweden.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=gender = 0 & work_sta = 1 & (cntry ='GB' | cntry ='SE').
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ 'gender = 0 & work_sta = 1 & (cntry =GB or cntry =SE) (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE.

*SPLIT FILE splits the active dataset into subgroups that can be analyzed separately.

SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE LAYERED BY cntry.
 
T-TEST
GROUPS=partime(1 0)
/MISSING=ANALYSIS
/VARIABLES=inc_hr1
/CRITERIA=CIN(.95).

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample solution

Answers

  1. The rationale for the hypothesis is that, in a society characterised by an individual-independence regime, efforts are made to reduce the penalty for part-time employment in order to encourage greater participation by women in the labour market and as a means of reducing gender inequality. Such mechanisms are expected to be weaker in the market-dependence regime.
  2. Sweden is characterised by the individual-dependence regime. The UK is best characterised as having a market-dependence regime.
  3. The results of the analysis support the hypothesis. There is no difference in the hourly earnings of women working part-time and those working full-time in Sweden. However, there is a large earnings gap in the UK in favour of women working full-time.
Page 5

Disrupted employment and its economic consequences

Women’s employment patterns over their life courses are related to family events and in particular to the presence and age of children. Many women tend to drop out of the workforce after giving birth and to only return to full employment later in life. In recent years, however, a growing number of young mothers have maintained continuous labour market activity, often shifting to part-time employment but increasingly maintaining the same job and workload as that held before giving birth [Spa96] [Mai88] [Sti98] [Sun92].

The periodic separation of women from work has traditionally been viewed by proponents of human capital theory as the major determinant of the gender wage gap and of occupational sex segregation [Pol75] [Min82] [Dun92]. This is mainly because intermittent and part-time employment is assumed to result in skill atrophy, which, in turn, reduces productivity and thus wages. Workers who interrupt their employment are also perceived by employers as having lower commitment to work. Consequently, they are less likely to gain access to the high-paying, more attractive jobs [Gro88] [Sta96].

Researchers who have studied the consequences in terms of long-term rewards of women’s employment patterns over their life course have largely taken a micro-level approach, i.e. they have focused on the woman's characteristics and those of her family, generally ignoring the broader context in which employment decisions are made. While this approach explains many aspects of labour market behaviour, it generally underestimates the role of institutional and normative arrangements that structure women’s work and that may mediate the effects of intermittent or part-time employment on labour market outcomes. Many of the studies that have addressed this issue adopted a comparative cross-national approach in order to evaluate the importance of institutional arrangements to women’s employment situation. These studies have provided substantial evidence for the variation in labour market behaviour of women and its consequences, and related them to the broader societal context. More specifically, both the patterns of women's employment at different stages of their life course (e.g. before and after having children and with the changing age of the children) and the consequences of such patterns for women's earnings and career advancement were found to differ considerably, depending on the prevailing cultural codes and policies enacted in the country in question [Sti01].

The logic on which the regime classification is based also suggests that women's disrupted employment will have different implications, depending on the regime type present in the country. Continuous employment is primarily expected in countries characterised by the individual-independence regime, since these countries are committed to promoting gender equality through work in the market. In this regime, continuous employment combined with a transition to part-time employment during certain periods of life is likely to have few negative consequences, since such a mode of employment is fully supported by labour market institutions and is not taken as an indication of a lack of commitment to work. Thus, part-time employment is an alternative to employment interruption and it acts more as a ‘bridge’ to full-time employment later in life than as a ‘trap’ keeping women in marginal employment [Nat95]. On the other hand, work interruption resulting in an exit from the labour market is discouraged under this regime and is likely to be penalised both in terms of women’s ability to return to their former jobs and in terms of earnings.

Employment patterns over the life course in countries with a state-dependence regime or family-dependence regime are expected to differ from the patterns discussed above. Firstly, higher rates of intermittent employment are expected, since women’s traditional role is promoted and only limited market opportunities are offered that permit work to be combined with household obligations (this is especially true of young mothers). In the state-dependence regime, those who return to market activity later in life will most likely find part-time, secondary employment. However, work interruption may not be costly to women since most mothers work in secondary jobs that do not require high levels of human capital and do not offer high economic rewards. Moreover, due to a structured labour market and the operation of social principles in market rewards, the penalties for non-continuous full-time employment will be low. In the family-dependence regime, it is less common for women to return to paid employment. Women who do so are a highly selective group (market skills that are in demand, highly motivated etc.) and thus most likely to work full-time.

In the market-dependence regime, opportunities for women will have a strong effect on their patterns of work. Women whose earnings capacity is limited and those who face higher costs of childcare will interrupt their employment; those who can ‘afford’ childcare will continue their employment. In this regime, part-time jobs do not provide an adequate solution since they only offer poor opportunities for advancement or future transition to the more lucrative positions. Consequently, those who move into part-time jobs will encounter high penalties since they will be trapped in secondary jobs with little opportunity to improve their position in the labour market in the long run. In general, work interruptions in market-based political economies are expected to result in high economic costs. This is because interruptions involve skill atrophy and because employers interpret it as a signal of the employee’s low commitment to work [Dun92] [Min82]. A strong selection of women to full-time employment is also expected to contribute to inequality among women in terms of the financial rewards associated with work behaviour.

Page 6

Exercise 3.5

  1. Suggest a hypothesis concerning the relationship between a woman’s education and the amount of time she spent in part-time employment (rather than full-time) when caring for children.
  2. How would you expect the relationship between the two variables to differ for the UK and Denmark?
  3. Test your hypothesis

Procedure:

Questions

  1. Are the correlations statistically significant and are they negative or positive?
  2. In which country is the correlation stronger?
  3. Discuss these results in light of your hypothesis.
Nesstar
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

*The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include working women from the United Kingdom and Denmark.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=gender = 0 & work_sta = 1 & (cntry ='DK' | cntry ='GB').
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ 'gender = 0 & work_sta = 1 & (cntry =DK or cntry =GB) (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE.

*SPLIT FILE splits the active dataset into subgroups that can be analysed separately.

SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE, LAYERED BY cntry.
 
CORRELATIONS
/VARIABLES=eduyrs ptmhmcc
/PRINT=TWOTAIL NOSIG
/MISSING=PAIRWISE.

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample solution

Problem

  1. Hypothesis: A negative correlation is expected between women’s education and the length of time they spent in part-time (rather than full-time) employment when caring for children. The hypothesis derives from the fact that better educated women are likely to earn more than less educated women. Hence, working part-time is more ‘costly’ for them. Better educated women can more easily enter professional and other career-oriented fields where part-time employment is not always possible.
  2. Hypothesis: We would expect the relationship discussed above to be stronger in the UK, a society best characterised by the market-dependence regime.

Answers

  1. The correlation between years of schooling and time in part-time (rather than full-time) employment when caring for children is zero in Denmark and r = -0.202 in the UK. The latter is statistically significant.
  2. We find that there is no correlation in Denmark, whereas in the UK the correlation is negative and significant, although rather weak.
  3. The first hypothesis is supported by the data from the UK but not Denmark. The pattern of correlations supports the second hypothesis, as the negative correlation is stronger in the UK.
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