Main gender issues

As shown in the table below, the gender gap in the youth employment rate declined between 2007 and 2013, due to a greater decrease in young men’s employment than women’s, and the unemployment rate is currently higher for young men than for young women (aged 15–29). Young men are also experiencing higher long-term unemployment rates than women. But this is largely due to the fact that long-term unemployed women are more likely than men to leave the labour force and become inactive, especially if they are low skilled.

Main labour market indicators by sex and age (2007–2013) EU28, youth aged 15–29:

  2007 2013
  Men Women Gap(W-M) Men Women Gap
(W-M)
Employment rate (ER) by age 40.3 34.1 – 6.2 34.1 30.4 -3-7
Temporary employees as percentage of total employees* 30.4 31.6 1.2 30.8 32.0 1.8
Part-time employment as percentage of the total employment* 12.5 27.0 14.5 16.6 31.6 15.0
NEET rate by age 10.2 16.2 6.0 14.1 17.7 3.6
NEET rate (inactive) by age 4.4 11.2 6.8 5.1 10.7 5.6
Unemployment rate (UR) 11.6 12.6 1.0 19.0 18.3 – 0.7
Long-term unemployment rate 3.6 3.6 0.0 7.5 6.6 – 0.9

* EU27  Source: Eurostat, LFS

NEET rates, measuring the share of young people who are not in employment, education or training, are a more complete indicator than the unemployment rate of youth because they also take into account those young people who are inactive but are not participating in education or training. Even though male NEET rates increased sharply between 2007 and 2013, young women’s rates (15–29) remain higher in the majority of EU28 countries, reaching 17.7% in the EU28 average for 2013, compared to 14.1% for young men. Female NEET rates are particularly high (above 20%) in eastern European (BG, HR, RO, SK and HU especially) and southern European (EL, IT and ES) countries. Only in some countries (ES, HR, CY) are NEET rates for males slightly higher than for females due to the increase in unemployment among young men. NEET rates and gender gaps are higher among young non-nationals (i.e. citizens of another country) than among young nationals.

In the majority of Member States female NEET rates and gender gaps tend to increase with age, as more young women have children and leave the labour market. In the 25–29 age group more than one out of four young women are NEET (25.4%), compared to one out of six young men (16.5% 2013 data). The increase in the gender gap with age is largely due to the inactive component: two thirds of NEET women aged 25–29 are inactive (41.7% not wanting to work and 22.8% wanting to work) compared to males of the same age group. The inactivity component for women aged 15–29 is particularly high in eastern European countries (especially RO, CZ, BG and HU) and the UK, as well as in countries such as the Netherlands and Finland, where the overall NEET rate is very low. The high share of inactive NEET women results in a greater persistence of NEET status and a lower turnover among young women than young men, especially in southern and eastern Europe.

There are also large gender differences in the reasons for not seeking employment. Family responsibilities are a key issue for young women, while the proportion of young inactive discouraged NEETs (i.e. those who consider it not worthwhile to seek employment because of the lack of opportunities) was almost twice as high among young men than among young women.

Level of education plays a crucial role in being NEET, especially for women. NEET rates are particularly high for young women with low education in Mediterranean countries (ES, IT, MT and PT), Bulgaria and Romania. The economic crisis has however increased the probability of moving into NEET status even for highly educated young people, especially women; this is the case for the Mediterranean countries, as well as for BG and SK where more than one-fifth of young women with secondary and tertiary education were NEET in 2011

Even when employed, young women face worse employment conditions than employed young men. They are more likely to hold involuntary part-time and/or temporary jobs than young men and the higher incidence of part-time and temporary jobs largely explains the higher share of low-paid workers among young women than among young men.

On average in the EU28, one third of young employed women, compared to only one sixth of young men, held a part-time job in 2013. Part-time work is widespread in northern Europe and especially in the Netherlands where 75% of young women hold a part-time job. On the contrary, short working time arrangements are rare in eastern countries for both genders, and are not common in southern Europe. According to estimations based on EU-SILC data, women are more likely to continue working part-time for an extended period, while, on average, 40% of young men move to a full-time job after one year working part-time, and almost none of them stay in a part-time job for four consecutive years.

Young women also have a higher incidence of temporary employment than young men and are more likely than young men to enter the labour market with a temporary part-time contract. They are more likely to be employed under the less regulated and protected contracts that are widespread in Mediterranean countries (PT, SP, IT), as well as in Slovenia, Poland and Sweden, and are less likely then young men to be employed in apprenticeship contracts, which usually guarantee high transition rates to permanent employment, especially in Germany and Austria.

The reasons for working part time or with temporary jobs are different for young women and men and across EU countries. Taking care of family and children is reported by one out of five young female part-time workers, compared to only 2.6% of males. In many northern countries youth working part-time (especially males) are mostly students, while in the other Member States with high rates of part-time work, such as the UK, IT, ES and FR, involuntary part-time is more widespread, the main reason, for both males and females, being not having found a full time job (in IT only for females).

School-to-work transitions: gender differences

The transition from school to work is an important step towards an autonomous adult life. This transition is not gender-neutral. Data from the ELFS ad hoc module Entry of Young People into the Labour Market (2009) show that the transition from school to work has become more dynamic in the last decades, involving more switches and detours and often non-standard jobs. The share of young persons who started working within one year after graduation is higher among recent graduates than those who have graduated earlier. In addition, more young people have already left their first job as well. We have analysed the type of contract (permanent versus temporary) of the first significant job, which we defined as a job lasting at least three months. The proportion of temporary first jobs differs greatly across European Member States, with relatively low shares in eastern European countries such as Romania and the Baltic states, and larger shares in Spain and Slovenia. It appears that gender differences in type of contract are small. However, young women do more often start in a doubly fragile position, that is, a temporary, part-time job. For example, 20% of young women in Sweden and 17% in the Netherlands start in a temporary part-time job compared to 8% and 9% of young men respectively.

In addition to the type of contract for the first significant job, another indicator is the general transition path from school to work. For a large group of young people, a considerable amount of time passes between their graduation date and the start of the first significant job; 14% of the graduates report needing more than three years to find their first significant job. In addition, the transition phase is often not completed with the first job. A minority (about 40%) enter the labour market with a permanent contract immediately upon graduation.

The share of young men is slightly higher than that of young women, but the difference is small. This implies that for many young workers, it might take a couple of transitions between labour market states for a stable position to be reached. We have studied possible transition paths between three different states: unemployed/inactive (NEET), in temporary employment, and in permanent employment. The ELFS ad hoc module provides data on a maximum of four points in time, so a maximum of three transitions could be analysed. These transitions have been sorted into successful paths (that is, leading to a permanent contract), paths in which no clear pattern is visible, and unsuccessful paths (ending in unemployment, inactivity or a temporary contract). It appears that women more often than men are in the unsuccessful paths. This is the case in all EU Member States, with the exception of Ireland and Lithuania. In addition, there are indications that women experience more transitions than men. Additional analyses show that the number of transitions seems to have a negative impact on labour market outcome: persons who experienced more transitions, have a lower probability of having a permanent contract and a higher probability of being unemployed.

Similar results are found by Mills et al. (2014) who show that in the school-to-work transition young women have a significantly slower transition to their first job than men. Men and women have a similar speed of transition to their first job only in the first few months after leaving education. After this time, the differences between men and women continue to diverge, with men having a higher likelihood to find a first job than women across all time periods (Mills et al., 2014).

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Created: 2015/02/10   Changed: 2015/02/10