Women's specific situation in Europe

nederland.jpg (4728 bytes)Womenís specific situation in Netherlands


Labour market participation and income

The participation of woman on the labour market and their degree of participation still lags far behind that of men. This is true of almost all aspects of participation, including jobs, professions and job grades. Women also work fewer hours per week than men. This shorter average working week and shorter employment history (due to temporary career interrunptions) continues to undermine the position of women on the labour marker and their ability to progress to more senior or management posts.

There has been a perceptible rise in the participation of women on the labour market since the 1970ís, from 34% in the mid 1970ís to 54% in 1999. This percentage is likely to rise even further. This trend is set to continue since girls are now enjoying the same level of education as boys and this is giving women an equal starting position on the labour market.

Labour market participation among both men and women is higher the younger and better educated they are.

The percentage of women in paid work is closely linked to their educational level. The labour market participation of unskilled women is exceptionally low compared to their more highly skilled counterparts. In 1997, only 19% of women with a primary education were in paid work, compared with 81% of women with university degrees. The percentage of highly skilled mothers returning to the labour market following the birth of a child is approximately twice as high on average as the percentage of unskilled mothers. The existing disparity in labour market participation between skilled and unskilled women before they leave work to have children, widens even further afterwards.

When women, especially unskilled and semi-skilled women, leave the labour market to have children they often never return. This has negative economic repercussions in the form of the narrower economic base for society and a smaller return on investment in womenís education.

Because there are fewer women in paid work, fewer women have access to an independent income than men. This is partly due to the large number of female part-time workers and the relatively low job grades which women tend to occupy. In 1996 women earned 76% of the gross average hourly wage of men. The differences in pay between men and women are due to differences in the nature of the jobs done by men and women.

Women are overrepresented in the health care and catering sectors, largely perform administrative and caring roles, are more often found in junior posts and are six times more likely to have a part-time job than men.


Part-time work

Part-time employment appears to by one way of combining paid work and unpaid care, especially for women. Government policy is geared towards increasing the number of part-time jobs to encourage more men to work part-time and to promote a fairer distribution of part-time employment between men and women. Specific measures are therefore being taken to encourage men to use the facilities available for combining paid work and unpaid care.



In the Netherlands, education is compulsory for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 16. Participation in education beyond compulsory school age has shown a progressive rise in recent years, especially among women. As a result, women around the age of 18 are now overrepresented in full-time education.

Although equal numbers of women and girls participate in the various forms of education and perform as well - and in some cases better than their male counterparts, their choice of study reflects an imbalance. In the Netherlands, the number of women and girls opting for technical subjects is lower than in other West European countries. In1993, Tecshnology and IT studies were included as additional subjects in the first stage of secondary education to encourage more women and girls to study technical subjects. Life skills are now also being thought in secondary schools to generate more interest in care and in the responsibilities of carers among boys.

One important aspect for policy is the recognition, that the existing imbalance between men and women in education are not solely due to stereotypical subject choices but also to other factors, such as expectations concerning the culture of future places of employment, the ability to work part-time and the anticipated availability of child care.

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