Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gender and employment in the EU

Eurostat, the statistical Office of the European Commission, has recently published some facts and figures about the business sector in the EU. Some key facts are interesting:
  1. In the overall business sector, more men than women are employed (64% vs 36%); this seems no news, but one has to bear in mind that in this sample, at least a dozen of sectors out of 19 are traditionally men's jobs (transport and construction, for example);
  2. By looking across sectors, the proportion of women is greater in the textiles industry (69%), retail trade (62%), restaurants & hotels (56%) and financial services (52%);
  3. Retail Trade and Restaurants & Hotels are respectively the first and the second sector in terms of highest share of part-time workers (29% and 28% respectively).

It seems that, even if women participate less in the labour force, at least they are engaged in safer jobs. Anyway, after all, women do not seem to participate enough to the labour force yet, so how do we induce them to work more?
It was recently in the news a story about the impossibility for some Norwegian firms to meet the obligation of having 40% quota of women in the board. This legislation, very unusual, is one extreme type of legislation for women empowering. There are of course other more interesting solutions (gender based taxation) as recently discussed by Alesina et al. in this Vox column. Also working on a better implementation of the atypical, part-time contracts, seems a good way through, as the data suggests. More women participation in the labor force is not only beneficial for equity reasons, but also for productivity and GDP growth.

As I am student of economics, I often hear my mates complaining about a lack of women in the profession. Is it all about economics? Or is it that women dislike being researchers? From my personal experience, this does not seem true. I have met many women in my career. But, you may say, this may be just a biased sample, since the institute where I am studying is gender concerned.
So here are the figures, for the broad R&D sector. In 2006, there was a 45% share of women. What happens if we look across countries? Here I reproduce a graph, taken from Eurostat, which shows the number of women engaged in R&D as a % of the total in 2003.

Only Sweden, the Baltic Stated and Portugal exceeded the 40% ceiling in 2003. So there is still a big room for improvement. Anyway, this graph confirms the impression that I once got from my dudes when they were considering applying for PDs: both of them picked Stockholm as their first choice. Was it only the Academic reputation of the University that motivated their choice?

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