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More female employment than ever, but the gender gap persists

Mònica Serrano, Universitat de Barcelona; Rosa Duarte and Cristina Sarasa, Universidad de Zaragoza; Adapted by Laia Brufau and Eli Vivas (StoryData)
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Economic growth has varying impacts on gender gaps, which are manifested in the work sphere. In Spain, the growing participation of women in the labour market has narrowed the employment gap between women and men. However, the gap still persists.
Key points
  • 1
       Spain’s accession to the European Union and the gradual incorporation of women into the educational system, among other factors, led to growing participation of women in the labour market and their progressive integration into medium and high-skill sectors and occupations.
  • 2
       By studying the distribution of employment by economic sectors between women and men it is possible to analyse in depth the impact exerted by the economic cycle on the labour market.
  • 3
       At the beginning of the democratic period, the gender gap in employment stood at nearly 60%. As of 1980 and over a period of more than three decades, the gap narrowed gradually and steadily.
  • 4
       In the first years of the economic crisis of 2008, the downward trend of the gender employment gap continued. However, this narrowing ceased when the crisis began to tail off; from that moment on, in 2012, the gap stabilised at around 16.5%.
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The participation of women in the labour market has increased greatly in the last 40 years, reflecting a situation that differs from that which occurred during the dictatorship and the transition, when female labour participation rates were low.

A long-term estimate of the distribution of employment between women and men by sectors of economic activity allows an in-depth analysis of the differentiated impact that the economic cycle has on the participation of women and men in the labour market.
This article shows the evolution of labour market participation of women and men at sectoral level and of the gender employment gap over nearly four decades (1980-2017) for the Spanish economy.

The gender employment gap explains the differences in labour market participation between women and men and is defined in percentage terms as one minus the ratio of female and male employment measured in total hours of paid work. The article is based on Duarte et al. (2019), which assesses the impact of economic growth on the evolution of female employment and gender gaps by sector from 1980 to 2007. This article extends the analysis of the employment gap to the period from 2008 to 2017 to collate the effects of the economic crisis and the situation in subsequent years.

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