Women spend 50% less time in full-time employment because of family events

Women spend half as much time in full-time employment than men as a result of family events, finds new research by the University of Cologne.

The study, conducted by WiSo doctoral student Wiebke Schmitz, and Professors Laura Naegele, Frerich Frerichs and Lea Ellwardt, investigated the employment patterns of both men and women and how their family events affected this.

They found that family events had a greater impact on the employment status of women more so than men late into their working lives.

The study revealed that on average, women between the ages of 50 to 65 spent four years in full-time employment, whereas men spent eight years.

It also revealed that women spent an average of three years in domestic employment, and one year in part-time employment.

Early family events such as children and civil partnerships were associated with unpaid housework or part-time work for women, and negatively affected the likelihood of full-time employment later in life.

“The course of late working life differs drastically depending on gender. Men’s later working lives are mainly characterised by continuous full-time work and the same family events had no effect on their full-time employment,” says Professor Lea Ellwardt.

The results of this study are prominent in areas that are conservative, and believe in traditional gender roles, or areas that are characterised by a lack of public social infrastructure.

“Greater integration of women into the labour market is necessary to mitigate the shortage of skilled workers in the wake of demographic change. Policymakers need to introduce life-course and gender-orientated strategies to mitigate women’s disadvantage in late-life,” says Professor Lea Ellwardt.

The researchers add that implementation of new policy measures should aim to prevent social inequalities in the earlier stages of life, as employment decisions influenced by earlier family events and associated career decisions accumulate over the course of life, especially for mothers.

The study was published in the European Journal of Ageing and was awarded the Best Paper Award of Section III for Social and Behavioural Gerontology of the “Deutschen Gesellschaft für Gerontologie und Geriatrie” (DGGG).