Stefani Scherer, Emilio Reyneri

The growth of female employment in Italy: structural versus cultural factors

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Female employment grew considerably over the last decades. This is true for Italy like for the rest of Europe, although Italy still has to go a long way to reach the levels of female labour market participation of other European countries. In this paper we investigate some of the possible reasons for this change in Italy and in particular we confront structural and cultural explanation. Besides a detailed description of the phenomenon and its change over time, we can show that in large parts the increase in female employment is due to the structural increase in the level of education: with the augment of highly educated women, who traditionally show a higher labour market attachment the overall labour market participation increased. Moreover, educational differences account also to a considerable part for the well documented regional differences in participations rates. The alarming result is that educational and thus class differences tend recently to accentuate, reinforcing already existing inequalities. Only partial support is found for the idea that women push into the labour market due to economic necessities. Besides supply side factors the availability of "adequate" employment constitutes an important factor. Like well established in the literature part-time work may constitute a way to combine work and family duties, although we find that the increase in (female) part-time work in parts went at the costs of full-time employment. We present empirical evidence based on LFS micro data as well as on longitudinal micro data. The latter allow to decompose participation rates in its single processes and thus to study in more detail the mechanisms behind.

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