Women's Labour Force in Europe

Essay by salman81 November 2007

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IntroductionOver the last two decades of accelerated societal modernization in West European countries gender relations have also been modernized. An important part of gender related changes has to do with the gendered division of labour in which females were playing the role of men thus making themselves in cooperated in gender related changes, which in particular is reflected in the general increase in the gainful employment of women in these countries. (n1) However European women cannot be said to have shared common patterns in the life course over dais period. As early as the 1950s, the proportion of women who participated in the labour force differed considerably, and took distinctly different avenues (for example the share of women working part-time), between different countries. How can such differences in the development of women's labour force participation and in working time patterns are explained, and how can this be theorized?The most common line of argument is that national welfare state policy is decisive in structuring women's participation in the labour market.

They are indeed no doubt that institutional conditions are of substantial importance for the employment behaviour of women (Crompton, 1998 and this issue). Nevertheless, the explanatory power of dais approach for understanding differential national gendered divisions of labour remains limited, I would argue, just because of this focus on the welfare state and its policies. This is partly because the assumptions about the impact of state policies on the behaviour of individuals are too deterministic.

There are in principle two variations to this argument. In the first variant, the behaviour of women is seen as an immediate response to the policies of the state. Women are treated as rational individuals who orient their behaviour according to financial incentives (for example Gustafsson, 1997 p 10). However, the employment behaviour of women cannot...