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The Gender Employment gap in Europe – Women’s participation rates are still systematically lower than those of men

Women’s labour market participation in the European Union has increased over recent decades. In 2014, women comprised almost 46% of people active in the EU labour market. Nevertheless, women’s participation rates are still systematically lower than those of men in almost all Member States.

This report explores the main characteristics and the evolution of gender gaps in labour market participation, employment and economic status. It looks at the main determinants of female labour market participation, investigating the interplay with individual and household characteristics. It examines the economic loss to the EU of the gender gap in employment and undertakes a forecasting exercise to examine the medium- and long-term prospects for increasing female participation rates. The report also studies the social effects of women’s participation in the labour market, as these effects go beyond the economic sphere and extend to women’s well-being and to society as a whole. Finally, it provides an overview and assessment of the effectiveness of policy measures promoting the labour market participation of women in six Member States (Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom), drawing attention to particularly successful and innovative cases.

Policy pointers

  • The female activity rate increased steadily during the crisis, although at a slower pace than before. Despite a narrowing of the gender participation gaps in most Member States, they remain significant, as do gender differences in the quality and forms of employment.
  • Gender gaps in employment in Europe lead to significant and immediate economic losses. An increase in female labour market participation has the potential to boost GDP growth substantially in the medium and long term.
  • Work is not merely a source of income that ensures adequate living standards, but is also important for personal well-being and for society as a whole. It is a major mechanism for social inclusion, being the primary means through which citizens relate to society and contribute to maintaining it.
  • Policies and initiatives aiming to foster female labour market participation should focus on moving women into employment, creating incentives for employers to increase labour demand and providing childcare support, various forms of leave and flexible working arrangements. Education is a key tool in EU policy to tackle gender gaps and stereotypes.
  • It is key that employers see women as a crucial segment of their workforce, and that care responsibilities and the adaptations needed to help them reconcile these with work are not regarded as a ‘women’s problem’ but an area for action from which the workforce as a whole as well as the employer can benefit.
  • Individual policies may be ineffective without an integrated support system to help women and their families navigate transitions between parental leave and a return to employment, or between periods of informal care and employment.
  • Shifting the gender balance in the provision of care is likely to require targeted interventions, although gradual cultural change can also be facilitated by means of policies such as an extended right to request flexible working.
  • Policies based on financial incentives or supportive interventions have to be appropriately targeted, reflecting evidence on which groups are most responsive to which types of incentives.


Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  The gender employment gap: challenges and solution



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