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European women: why do(n't) they work?

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To increase labour market participation is a major challenge currently faced by the EU, and attracting women into the labour force appears as a promising avenue to do so. Therefore, a clear understanding of what the factors influencing the evolution of female participation rates are in Europe is essential for a successful design of policy measures aiming at increasing participation rates. This article provides empirical evidence on the role that institutions have played in determining participation rates of women in the European labour markets. Our findings discard any doubt on the influence of institutions on women's participation in Europe. The strictness of labour market institutions negatively affects female participation rates. We also find that institutional features aimed at reconciling motherhood with professional life such as maternity leave schemes and part-time work favour participation rates of prime-age women. Additionally, fertility rates and education enrolment have been relevant for the evolution of participation rates during the sample period considered for prime-age and young females, respectively, while cohort effects drive the developments of older females.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00036840701721547

Affiliations: European Central Bank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Publication date: May 1, 2010

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