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Diverse employment in Europe


"In Denmark, 67 per cent of mothers of children under 16 are in full-time employment; in the Netherlands the proportion is only 11 per cent."

New ESRC research highlights the diversity of employment patterns in the European Union. The study, specially commissioned to be presented at the ESRC’s sixth national social science conference was prepared by Richard Berthoud and Maria Iacovou, of the Essex University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). It is largely based on analysis of a survey of 73,000 households across the EU.

Their findings include:

Ten times as many people work in agriculture in Greece as in the UK. But even in Greece, the proportion is only one in six.

The UK has the highest proportion of non-working households at 15 per cent. The European average is eleven per cent of working age adults (25-59 years) who live in households where no one works.

One hypothesis about the growth in the number of non-working households has been that the increase in employment among married women has crowded men out of jobs – i.e. that more ’work-rich’ two-earner families means more ’work-poor’ no-earner households. But according to Berthoud and Iacovou’s research, cross-national comparisons offer absolutely no support for the idea that a high employment rate among married women is associated with a high proportion of non-working households.

Unemployment in Luxembourg is 2.4 per cent, in the UK it is 5.5 per cent and in Spain, it is 14.1 per cent.

In Scandinavia, two-thirds of women have full-time jobs. In most of the southern countries (Spain, Greece and Italy), full-time employment rates are as low as 40 per cent for women without children and 30 per cent for mothers.

The exceptions to this pattern are Portugal and the Netherlands, where female employment rates are the opposite of what might be expected from their geographical positions. In Portugal, over 60 per cent of mothers workfull-time, but only eleven per cent of mothers in Holland do so.

In the UK, two thirds of women without children have full time jobs, whereas less than a third of mothers are in full time employment.
For further information, see the accompanying extract of Berthoud’s and Iacovou’s presentation to the conference. The full report will be available at the ESRC’s conference on 21st November 2002 at the QEII Conference Centre.

Alternatively, contact Professor Richard Berthoud on or 44-120-687-3982 or Dr Maria Iacovou (noon till 6pm only) on or 44-120-687-3994 or Romesh Vaitilingam on 44-776-866-1095.

Or Iain Stewart or Lesley Lilley at ESRC, on 44-179-341-3032/413119

Notes for the editors:
1. Richard Berthoud and Maria Iacovou are researchers at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex - the base for ESRC’s UK Longitudinal Studies Centre.

2. About the study: The raw household survey data for most of the research comes from the European Community Household Panel, a survey undertaken in all 15 current EU members. The sample totals around 73,000 households across Europe, ranging from 7,000 each in Italy and France to just 1,000 in Luxembourg; all adults in selected households were interviewed, providing data about 153,000 individuals. Much of the material in the paper is drawn from the work of the European Panel Analysis Group. (see

3. The ESRC is the UK’s largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It has a track record of providing high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC invests more than £53 million every year in social science research. At any time, its range of funding schemes may be supporting 2,000 researchers within academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences thereby nurturing the researchers of tomorrow.

Iain Stewart | EurekAlert!
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