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Women’s participation in the labour force


  • Grant Johnston

    () (The Treasury)


Labour force participation is a topical issue in New Zealand. It is well known that the participation of New Zealand women aged 25-39 is low in comparison with women in other OECD countries. There has been considerable interest in policies which might raise women’s participation. This paper provides a base of information on women’s labour force participation in New Zealand and in other OECD countries. The low participation of younger New Zealand women seems to be driven largely by a combination of relatively low participation rates among mothers with young children and sole mothers, together with high fertility rates and high proportions of sole parent families. However, while New Zealand women tend to leave the labour force when they have children, they also tend to return strongly to the labour force when their children get older. Considered over all ages, New Zealand has a reasonably healthy female participation rate, and the total quantity of work done in New Zealand, relative to the size of the working-age population, is amongst the highest in the OECD.

Suggested Citation

  • Grant Johnston, 2005. "Women’s participation in the labour force," Treasury Working Paper Series 05/06, New Zealand Treasury.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:05/06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Axel Boersch-Supan, 2001. "Labor Market Effects of Population Aging," NBER Working Papers 8640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Florence Jaumotte, 2003. "Female Labour Force Participation: Past Trends and Main Determinants in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 376, OECD Publishing.
    3. Killingsworth, Mark R. & Heckman, James J., 1987. "Female labor supply: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 103-204 Elsevier.
    4. Maloney, Tim, 2000. "The impact of welfare reform on labour supply behaviour in New Zealand," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 427-448, July.
    5. Bound, John & Schoenbaum, Michael & Stinebrickner, Todd R. & Waidmann, Timothy, 1999. "The dynamic effects of health on the labor force transitions of older workers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 179-202, June.
    6. Jacobsen, Joyce P., 1999. "Labor force participation," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 597-610.
    7. David Gruen & Matthew Garbutt, 2003. "The Output Implications of Higher Labour Force Participation," Treasury Working Papers 2003-02, The Treasury, Australian Government, revised Oct 2003.
    8. Steven Stern, 1989. "Measuring the Effect of Disability on Labor Force Participation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(3), pages 361-395.
    9. John Bryant & Veronica Jacobsen & Matthew Bell & Daniel Garrett, 2004. "Labour Force Participation and GDP in New Zealand," Treasury Working Paper Series 04/07, New Zealand Treasury.
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    More about this item


    women; participation; employment; labour supply; New Zealand;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure

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