Family formation and female employment: the educational gradient in full-time and part-time work in 10 European countries

David De Wachter, Universiteit Antwerpen
Karel Neels, Universiteit Antwerpen
Jorik Vergauwen, Universiteit Antwerpen

Over the last decades the participation of women in the labour market has risen sharply in Europe because of better female education and increased rates of maternal employment. However, maternal employment rates show considerable variation between countries. Combining micro-data from the Generations and Gender Survey with contextual information from the OECD Family database, this paper uses multinomial multilevel regression to analyse the effects of micro and macro level characteristics on full-time and part-time employment among women in 10 European countries. We investigate the educational gradient in the effect of union formation on female activity status and how this differs between and within the countries considered. We also check whether cross-national differences in the availability of formal and informal childcare can explain cross-national differences in the effect of union formation. The results indicate that within country variation in activity status is largely overshadowed by the strong cross-national differences in female employment. Between-country variation in female employment is very small among childless women but increases rapidly after they have made the transition into motherhood. The number of children and the age of the youngest child in the household have a clear effect on female employment rates, but the size and the direction of the effects are different for full-time and part-time work, interact with educational attainment and further vary between countries. Between-country differences in the effect of union formation can be partially explained by differences in childcare use. Between-country variation in formal childcare has a larger impact on female activity status than between-country variation in informal childcare. Finally, both formal and informal childcare have a positive effect on both full-time and part-time employment in all educational groups with the effect being more articulated among higher educated women.

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Presented in Session 75: Family formation and the labour market