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Women’s Employment

What’s the role of education?
Copyright: shironosov

Numerous studies have confirmed that higher educated women are more likely to be involved in the labour market. However, the strength of education effects on women’s employment can be shown to vary across contexts. In a recent analysis, Nadia Steiber, Caroline Berghammer, and Barbara Haas analyze how and why education effects on women’s employment vary across countries and how these effects are modified by the presence and age of children.

To conduct this research, the authors studied 13,718 heterosexual couples that included women aged 20-45 in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, and Norway.

Their overall results confirm that women’s odds of employment are lower in the presence of children (child effect) and within less-educated couples (education effect). Yet, both of these effects vary across countries. In Austria, Germany, and Hungary there seems to be a strong child effect. Women’s employment is very low if they have an infant child and only gradually increases as the child grows older. In France and Norway, by contrast, dual-earner arrangements, i.e. both partners work full-time, tend to dominate, even with young children present (Figure 1).




Figure 1: Female employment by country, couple education, and the family life-cycle 


Regarding the education effect, the study finds that such effects vary with the age and presence of children as well as the country context. Among couples with an infant child, France stands out as the country with the largest education effect, whereas in Austria, Germany, and Hungary, neither low-educated nor high-educated women tend to work when their children are below the age of 3 (small education effect). In the presence of older children, the education effect is largest in Hungary, followed by Austria and Germany, and smallest in Norway and France. Overall the results suggest that family policies that facilitate maternal employment can help to reduce both child effects as well as education effects on women’s employment in this stage of the family life-cycle.



*This PopDigest has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 320116 for the research project FamiliesAndSocieties. FamiliesAndSocieties ( has the aim to investigate the diversity of family forms, relationships and life courses in Europe, to assess the compatibility of existing policies with these changes, and to contribute to evidence-based policy-making. The consortium brings together 25 leading universities and research institutes in 15 European countries and three transnational civil society organizations.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Jordan Lang