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Drivers of Female Labour Force Participation in the OECD


  • Olivier Thévenon



This paper analyses the response of female labour force participation to the evolution of labour markets and policies supporting the reconciliation of work and family life. Using country-level data from the early 1980s for 18 OECD countries, we estimate the influence of labour market and institutional characteristics on female labour force participation, and full-time and part-time employment participation. The relationship (interactions, complementarity) between different policy measures is also analyzed, as well as potential variations in the influence of policies across different Welfare regimes. The results first highlight how the increase in female educational attainment, the expansion of the service sector the increase in parttime employment opportunities have boosted women’s participation in the labour force. By contrast, there is no such clear relationship between female employment rates and the growing share of public employment. Employment rates react to changes in tax rates, in leave policies, but the rising provision of childcare formal services to working parents with children not yet three years old is a main policy driver of female labour force participation. Different policy instruments interact with each other to improve overall effectiveness. In particular, the coverage of childcare services is found to have a greater effect on women’s participation in the labour market in countries with relatively high degrees of employment protection. The effect of childcare services on female full-time employment is particularly strong in Anglophone and Nordic countries. In all, the findings suggest that the effect of childcare services on female employment is stronger in the presence of other measures supporting working mothers (as, for instance paid parental leave) while the presence of such supports seems to reduce the effectiveness of financial incentives to work for second earners. The effect of cash benefits for families and the duration of paid leave on female labour force participation also vary across welfare regimes. Cet article analyse la réponse de la participation des femmes à la force de travail aux évolutions des marchés du travail et des politiques favorisant la conciliation entre travail et vie familiale. Exploitant des données pour 18 pays de l’OCDE depuis le début des années 1980s, on estime l’influence des caractéristiques du marché du travail et institutionnelles sur la participation des femmes au marché du travail, et sur leurs taux d’emploi à temps plein et à temps partiel. Les interactions et complémentarités potentielles entre les mesures politiques sont aussi testées, tout comme les possibles variations de l’influence des politiques entre les différents Etats-Providence. Les résultats montrent, en premier lieu, comment l’élévation des niveaux d’éducation féminins, l’expansion de l’emploi dans les services et le développement du temps partiel ont favorisé la participation des femmes au marché du travail. En revanche, le développement de l’emploi des femmes n’est pas aussi clairement lié à la croissance de l’emploi dans le secteur public. Les taux d’emploi féminins réagissent aux variations de taux d’imposition, aux politiques de congés, mais l’offre de services d’accueil pour les enfants de moins de trois ans semble être le facteur clé du développement de la participation des femmes au marché du travail. Les différentes mesures politiques interagissent et leurs effets se renforcent mutuellement. En particulier, la couverture des services d’accueil de la petite enfance ont un effet plus important sur la participation des femmes au marché du travail dans les pays offrant une plus grande protection de l’emploi. L’effet des services d’accueil de la petite enfance sur l’emploi à temps plein des femmes est particulièrement important dans les pays anglophones et d’Europe du Nord. Par ailleurs, les résultats suggèrent que l’effet des services de la petite enfance sur l’emploi des femmes est renforcé lorsqu’ils sont associés à d’autres mesures favorisant les mères qui travaillent (comme par exemple le congé payé parental), mais que celles-ci réduisent l’efficacité des incitations financières à travailler pour le partenaire. L’effet des aides financières familiales et de la durée des congés payés sur la participation des femmes au marché du travail varie également entre les différents systèmes de prestations sociales.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Thévenon, 2013. "Drivers of Female Labour Force Participation in the OECD," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 145, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:145-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Janneke Plantenga, 2014. "Searching for welfare, work and gender equality," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 59, WWWforEurope.
    2. Karl Aiginger & Kurt Kratena & Margit Schratzenstaller & Teresa Weiss, 2014. "Moving towards a new growth model," WWWforEurope Deliverables series 3, WWWforEurope.

    More about this item


    family policy; female labour force participation; institutional complementarity; work-life balance;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure

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