The gender employment gap: Costs and policy responses
Despite signiﬁcant progress in reducing gender inequalities in the labour market over the last several decades, gender gaps in employment rates still persist, and women continue to be consistently overrepresented in low-paid sectors as well as in part-time and temporary jobs. And while a long-term convergence in employment opportunities seems to be underway – setting aside for now considerations on employment quality and conditions – it is worth noting that recent improvements were mainly driven by a relative worsening of the male employment rate due to considerable job losses in male-dominated sectors during the economic crisis. Recent data shows that the gender employment gap, deﬁ ned here as the difference between the employment rates of men and women aged 15-64, stood at 10.4 percentage points in 2015 – while men had an employment rate of 70.8%, the ﬁgure for women was just 60.4%. To put it bluntly, this differential corresponds to 17 million women, which is roughly the entire population of the Netherlands. Yet average ﬁgures mask a great heterogeneity among EU countries: Italy, Greece and Malta are amongst the worst-performing member states, while Scandinavian and Baltic countries provide more gender-balanced employment opportunities. This picture not only presents differences in the structure of the labour market and composition of the labour force, but also reﬂects the diversity in terms of national institutional setups, policy regimes and cultural values, which are known to have signiﬁ cant effects on women’s participation in the labour market. This paper will investigate the economic and the social costs associated with the observed gender employment gap. It will then discuss key aspects of the needed policy responses to foster and promote labour market participation among women.