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Labour force participation of women with children: disparities and developments in Europe since the 1990s


  • Olivier Thévenon


The aim of this paper is to identify how specific the increase of female labour market participation observed over the last fifteen years were to particular family statuses: mothers versus childless women, households with young children versus households with older children, mothers who had children early versus those who had children later. The analysis is based on European Union Labour Force Surveys (EU LFS) for the period from 1992 to 2005 and draws on the data available for some countries on household composition, and observes different cohorts of women across the different years of the survey. The labour market situations of women are modelled in order to identify trends in behaviour for given individual and family characteristics. The results are used to discuss the variety of changes in female labour market behaviour in group of countries that were considered as relatively similar at the beginning of the 90s. We find that changes were mainly favourable to mothers in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands and the UK. Some similarities and differences between countries identified in previous comparative research are reaffirmed, confirming the relative heterogeneity of the models of female employment in relation to standard welfare state typologies. Major differences and trends specific to certain countries were nevertheless identified. Some of these differences concern the relative importance of the number of children and of the age of the youngest on female labour market behaviour. But differences also relate to the variable impact of the age at which women have their first child. It suggests that varieties in macro-institutional contexts shape different opportunity for women to manage labour market commitment with family formation over their life-cycle.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Thévenon, 2008. "Labour force participation of women with children: disparities and developments in Europe since the 1990s," EconomiX Working Papers 2008-1, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
  • Handle: RePEc:drm:wpaper:2008-1

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