Increased Women's Labour Force Participation in Europe: Progress in the Work-Life Balance or Polarization of Behaviours?

By Olivier Thévenon, le groupe CSF


This paper analyses trends in women’s labour market situations between 1992 and 2005 using data from the European Labour Force Surveys (EU-LFS). These situations are modelled to capture the effects of the presence of a child or children, the age of the youngest child, the mother’s age at first birth and the presence of a spouse on women’s employment and working hours, and to see how they change over time. The trends observed in some countries challenge the geographical breakdown proposed by the standard typologies of the 1990s.
The rise in female labour force participation rates is partly due to the reduction in family size, but women’s employment has also increased for a given household size. In some countries, this rise seems to be associated with a decision to have children only if their arrival can be reconciled with employment. Indicators reflecting this situation are found in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, where support for reconciling work and family life is limited. A lesser reduction in family size is observed in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, however, where the context for reconciling employment and children is more favourable.

Go to the article on