Women account for growing labour participation among older people

15/10/2009 15:00

Between 1996 and 2008, the gross labour participation rate of 50 to 65-year-olds has risen from 42 to 58 percent. If the ageing process in the population is not taken into account, women account for nearly two thirds of the increase. This is mainly due to the inflow of younger generations of women working more often in paid jobs.

Twofold increase among older women

The gross labour participation rate in the category of 50 to 55-year women was 66 percent in 2008, more than one and a half times as many as in 1996. The rate among women in the age category 60 to 65 tripled to 17 percent in 2008.

Gross labour participation among women by age

Gross labour participation among women by age

More employed women in younger generations

In the period 1996-2008, generation plays an important part in female participation on the labour market. The classification in 5-year birth groups shows that the gross labour participation rate of each younger generation is considerably higher than that of its predecessor. This suggests that female labour participation in the age category 50 to 65 will increase further in the years to come.

Gross labour participation among 45 to 65-year-old women by birth group

Gross labour participation among 45 to 65-year-old women by birth group

Modest growth in men aged 50 to 55

The labour participation rate grew faster for older women than for their male contemporaries. In the period 1996–2008, the proportion of 55 to 60 and 60 to 65-year-olds active on the labour market grew by 20 percentage points, but the proportion of 50 to 55-year-olds rose from 86 to 89 percent. The overall labour participation rate for men was however higher during this entire period than the rate for women. The effects of subsequent generations on labour market participation are not so evident for men. 

Gross labour participation in the male population by age

Gross labour participation in the male population by age

Approximately 900 thousand older people enter the labour market

The number of people on the labour market aged between 50 and 65 increased from 970 thousand to approximately 1.9 million over the period 1996-2008. More than half of the increase is accounted for by the ageing of the population. The remaining 420 thousand are actually the result of a higher participation rate; 62 of them are percent are women. 

Average working week a bit shorter

The average amount of weekly hours laid down in the contracts of 50 to 65-year-olds is diminishing. In the male employed labour force, it dropped from 37.8 to 36.5 hours, in the female employed labour force form 26.1 to 25.4 hours. This is partly due to the surge in part-time jobs, predominantly among women. Other factors are the general reduction in working hours and age-related arrangements with respect to working hours. 

Ferdy Otten and Clemens Siermann