Recent trends in female employment

Briefing 27-10-2020

Statistics and research results show that in recent decades, before the coronavirus pandemic, the EU's labour market witnessed an increase in female employment rates. Women's employment seems to have been more resilient than men's to the economic and financial crisis in 2008. This was due in part to long-term developments and changes in the institutional framework, but also to women's tendency to work in particular sectors and accept flexible working arrangements (such as part-time work or teleworking). The coronavirus crisis, however, has had a harsher impact on women than on men when it comes to the labour market. One of the main reasons is that men tend more to work in sectors considered as essential economic activities (with the exception of healthcare), whereas women's work often involves contact with customers and clients, making teleworking impossible. Women have also been faced with increased childcare needs, reducing their ability to work, while enjoying a lower level of social protection owing to their working arrangements. Although EU legislation takes account of the situation of women in the labour market, and a number of legislative and non-legislative initiatives have recently been taken at EU level, a number of challenges remain. Areas where action is required include: the harmonisation of retirement schemes, to take the specific nature of women's careers into account; better reconciliation of work and family life by means of more flexible employment arrangements; and action to address the perennial gender pay gap. This is an update of an earlier briefing on Trends in female employment, from October 2015, PE 569.049.