Working women: Key facts and trends in female labor force participation

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What does this tell us about time allocation and labor supply more generally? The answer is perhaps unsurprising. You can find more details about the determinants of female labor supply in our companion blog post.

And this is of course a biological burden uniquely borne by women. Moreover, maternity is not only a burden in terms of time.

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It is also risky, and often imposes on women a substantial burden in terms of health. Here is a chart that shows long-run trends in maternal mortality and female labor supply in the US. You can read more about maternal mortality hereand you can read more about its link to female labor supply here.

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And this is of course independent of health complications — having children is very time consuming even when enjoying perfect health. Indeed, there is strong evidence of a causal link between fertility having children and labor market outcomes participation, employment, wages, etc. In a recent study Lundborg, Plug and Rasmussen 13 show that women who are successfully treated by IVF in vitro fertilization in Denmark earn persistently less because of having children.

They explain the decline in annual earnings by women working less when children are young and getting paid less when children are older. There are many other studies that find similar effects on female labor supply when there are exogenous shocks to fertility. Here you can read more about the evidence supporting a causal link.

And here you can read more about fertility in general.

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Childcare and other family-oriented policies The fact that fertility reductions lead to higher labor force participation for women is certainly important from an empirical point of view.

But it is obviously contradictory to promote female agency while suggesting women should have fewer children.

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So it is helpful to consider other factors that make employment compatible with childbearing, and thus broaden the choices available to women.

Childcare and other family-oriented policies are prime examples here. Here you can read more about the evidence behind family-oriented policies and female labor supply. Labor-saving consumer durables The consumer goods revolution, which introduced labor-saving durables such supply and participation options washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other time-saving products, is another factor that contributed to the rise in married female labor force participation in the last century.

Here is a supply and participation options discussion of the correlation between hours worked in domestic activities and the availability of basic electrical appliances. And here you can find more details about an academic study that estimates the associated effect on female labor supply. Social norms and culture Social norms and culture circumscribe the extent to which it is possible or desirable for women to enter the labor force. It is therefore not hard to see why they play an important role.

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Socially assigned gender roles have often been institutionally enforced. And this is still the case today: In most countries around the world there are restrictions on the types of work that women can do. From a historical point of view, there is evidence that social norms regarding economic gender roles have long been around, and they are very persistent see, for example, Alesina, Giuliano and Nunn In particular, income levels and macroeconomic variables play an important role.

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As we show above, there is a U-shaped relationship between GDP per capita and female labor force participation. In low-income countries, where the agricultural sector is particularly important for the national economy, women are heavily involved in production, primarily as family workers.

Under such circumstances, productive and reproductive work are not strictly delineated and the two can be more easily reconciled. This means that in high income countries, the rise in female labor supply is characterized by women gaining the option of moving into paid, often white-collar work, while the opportunity cost of exiting the workforce for childcare rises.

Whenever a country had missing data for orthe closest year with available data is shown within a 5-year window. For reference, This slope chart plots the same dataset, but only for countries with observations on and Comparable historical estimates showing a breakdown of participation rates by age groups show that this increase took place across almost all individual age groups see, for example, Heckman J.

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Ashenfelter and R. Layard The recent decline in female labor force participation in the US has received attention in a number of recent academic studies. In particular, they show that a large share of American women are working much longer today than previous generations — well into their 60s and 70s — and working full-time.

Labor Force Participation Rate Definition

Heckman J. Layard Engemann, K. Social changes lead married women into labor force. The Regional Economist, Apr Another way of saying this is that the reduction in hours worked per female worker did not offset the strong effect of the increase in number of female workers.

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This may well be the case, since a large part of the increase in participation was driven by new part-time employment supply and participation options e. The classification follows the standards set in the System of National Accounts. The linked chart is from Castillo M. Available online here. Interestingly, note that activities are not excluded on the grounds that they are illegal or registered with public authorities.

The modeled estimates are based mainly on nationally representative labor force surveys, with other sources population censuses and nationally reported estimates used only when no survey data are available.

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It is important to note that unpaid work is not the same as informal work. The ILO standards do recommend including informal workers both paid and unpaid under the economically active population. In practice, however, data collection typically focuses on paid informal employment, mainly outside agriculture.

This means that labor force statistics often do include self-employed workers in their own informal enterprises e. But they often fail to include unpaid work on activities such as subsistence farming.

Formal workers are favored through, for example: sectoral policies, infrastructure services, social protection, childcare and occupational safety systems, and institutions for collective bargaining.

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Lundborg, P. Can Women Have Children and a Career? American Economic Review, 6 Goldin, C. Journal of political Economy, 4 Available online.

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Alesina, A. On the origins of gender roles: Women and the plough.

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The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2 Cultural change as learning: The evolution of female labor force participation over a century.

The American Economic Review, 1 For a who gives a demo account regarding social activism and its link to the other determinants mentioned above, see for example this study by Heer and Grossbard-Shechtman The U-shaped female labor force function in economic development and economic history No.

National Bureau of Economic Research.

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It is under such circumstances that female childcare workers are paradoxically unable to afford childcare for their own children. For more details see Entmacher, J. Underpaid and overloaded: Women in low-wage jobs. Reuse our work freely All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license.

You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited. The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the supply and participation options terms from the original third-party authors.

We will always indicate the original source of the data in our documentation, so you should always check the license of any such third-party data before use and redistribution.