Families and children

Overview of Gender Differences in OECD Countries


Despite numerous improvements in women’s employment outcomes, there are still many gender gaps that need to be addressed. On average, across OECD countries, the proportion of women in paid work is high (62%). However, women in OECD countries earn 18% less than men, only about one-third of managerial posts are held by a woman, many more women work in part-time jobs than men (25% and 6% respectively). These gender differences are even wider with the presence of children since women are more likely to adjust their employment practices upon the arrival of a child much more than men.

A more detailed overview of gender differences can be found in the Gender Brief.


More research on Gender issues

Gender issues figure prominently in the work programme of the OECD Social Policy Division. While most of the social statistics are disaggregated as much as possible by gender on a routine basis, there are also a number of projects that directly address policy concerns related to women and their role in the economy and society as well as to the distribution of work and family responsibilities between men and women more broadly (Doing Better for Families; Babies and Bosses: Reconciling Work and Family LifeDoing Better for Children and the OECD Family database), and these issues will be expanded upon in ongoing work on Doing Better for Families, which will contain a chapter on gender equity in labour market outcomes. The forthcoming issue of Society at a Glance will include a special feature on unpaid work, while Women and Pensions will look at how labour market differences in terms of earnings, working hours, time taken off to care for children, affect the pension entitlement of women, but will also consider the effects of changes over time in life expectancy, fertility and marital status. The latter 3 publications are scheduled for release in the first half of 2011.

Here is a set of examples of policy reforms that we advocate on Work/family balance, gender equity and fertility issues  

  • Policy should promote a more equal use of parental leave amongst mothers AND fathers:
    In all OECD countries, except the US, there is statutory paid maternity leave, which on average extends to about 18 weeks. In addition, a growing number of OECD countries offer paid paternity leave of around 2 weeks or less to allow fathers to spend time with their new-born children. Moreover, to supplement maternity and paternity leave schemes, many countries offer parental leave periods (paid and unpaid). However, by and large parental leave is still taken by mothers. As long as women rather than men take time off work to provide care, there will always be employers who perceive women as less committed to their career than men, and are therefore less likely to invest in female career opportunities and depress female earnings as a whole.

  • Promote flexible workplace practices:
    Governments remain reluctant to intervene in the workplace because of the fear of increasing labour costs and in the belief that this is an area best left to employers and employees to negotiate. On the other hand, some countries have introduced legislation entitling employees to flexible workplace practices.  Across the OECD, part-time work is an option used by many families to cope with their family and work responsibilities. However, this working practice is taken mainly by women. In OECD countries, around 25% of women work part-time but only 6% of men do so. 

  • Childcare issues should not be a barrier to parental employment:
    Parental childcare fees are often high, and can be so high, that in the short-term work does not pay for many second earners in couple families. We advocate a mixture of financing tools; direct supply-side subsidies towards capital investment, providers in deprived and/or scarcely populated areas and/or concerning the provision of services to children with special needs.