As well as land and capital, labor is one of the main factors of production in economics. An organization’s activity and performance directly depend on human capital. Human capital signifies the talent, creativity, productivity, skills, and knowledge of the workforce. What is more, human capital is considered to be one of the most important factors of a country’s competitiveness. Gender equality plays a key role in human capital. Gender equality signifies that no one should be discriminated against due to his or her gender. Gender equality is a basic human right and a common value of the contemporary world. This paper is aimed at the analysis of the evolution of female labor market participation infertility and the detection of the main factors behind these evolutions.
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The Evolution of Female Labour Market Participation
Although women started working after the Industrial Revolution that led to the rise of factory work, there was a significant increase in women’s labor force participation only over the last century. In the first half of the 20th century, only unmarried women worked (Leigh 2010). Less than one-third of women were in the labor force in the United States of America after World War II. “Women soon began to participate in greater numbers, and their labor force participation rose rapidly from the 1960s through the 1980s before slowing in the 1990s” (Women in the labor force: a databook 2015). Women in the labor force reached a peak of 60 percent in 1999. Approximately the same statistics can be noticed in the evolution of female labor market participation in other developed countries.
Cipollone, Patacchini, and Valenti (2014, p. 2) state that “the female participation rate in Europe has increased from around 55% in the early 90s to more than 66% in 2008”. Consequently, the female employment rate was increasing gradually during this period from the early 90s to 2008. Cipollone, Patacchini, and Vallanti (2014) underline that these changes led to a dramatic decrease in the gender employment gap, which was almost two times less in 2008 than it was in 1990. Women in the labor force enjoy all the associated benefits nowadays. For instance, Hamermesh and Trejo stress (2000, p. 38) that “for many years, California required that most women receive an overtime premium of time-and-a-half for hours of work beyond eight in a given day”. The evolution of female labor market participation has led to an increase in the supply of woman’s labor.
The Evolution of Fertility
On the contrary, with the establishment of modern economic growth, fertility is moving in a completely different direction. Fertility tends to decline in developed countries. As it is described by Sommer (2016, p. 2), “over the last four decades, the average total fertility rate in OECD countries has fallen dramatically: from 2.9 in the 1960s to 2.0 in 1975, and then further down to 1.6 in 3 4 2000”. There are a lot of factors that influence fertility choices. The most common are changes in income levels (a rise in female wages), earnings risk, education, career, changes in labor market regulations, marriage circumstances, and contraceptive use. It is important to understand the essence of fertility decisions and factors that influence it because fertility is closely connected with population growth and even economic outcomes (Kasarda, Billy & West 2013).
Women’s Labour Supply and Fertility
There are some important connections between women’s labor supply and fertility. Sometimes having a child and taking care of him are considered to be a barrier to participation in the labor market to some extent (Billingsley & Ferrarini 2014). The more children a woman has, the lower the opportunity to find a job. Due to it, some women decide not to have children. They devote as much time and as many resources as possible to their careers. As can be seen from the overall tendency of decreasing fertility rate, more and more women choose jobs.
A lot of European countries have low fertility rates, and there are specific reasons for that. These reasons are education, women in careers, later marriages, and state benefits (Case study: pro-natalist policy in France 2016). People tend to be more aware of the essence of contraception, and they try to avoid an unplanned pregnancy and its consequences that can affect their careers. In her paper, Bailey (2006, p. 306) underlines that “changing career trajectories, resulting from delay in childbearing, constitute the primary mechanism connecting early access to the pill to increases in labor force participation”. Also, European women prefer to follow their career choice rather than give birth (Genre, Salvador & Lamo 2010). Apart from this, some European families do not think about having children anymore because due to a variety of different state benefits, they will not need children to help them in the future.
European Fertility Policies
Some social and fiscal policies are implemented to make child-rearing less difficult for working women and to increase the fertility rate (Siegel 2017). These programs vary from country to country. In 2013, the European Parliament published the document that gathers and describes all the necessary and important factors that should be taken into account when developing fertility policy. This document written by Ron Davies is a kind of guideline for governments.
Firstly, it is important to create financial options. As it is described by Davies (2013, p. 4), “a child bonus is paid out to parents once at the time of birth; a child or family allowance is paid continuingly until the child reaches a given age”. Ongoing tax reductions or credits should be implemented too. Further, Davies (2013, p. 5) states that maternity and paternity leaves are to be provided. What is more, a part of this leave can be transmitted from one parent to another. The next factor is the childcare provision. Davies (2013, p. 6) claims that “the availability and affordability of formal childcare, especially for the youngest children, can make having children easier, particularly where both parents want to continue working”. Some additional options were offered. For instance, it is important to pay enough attention to fathers and encourage them to take care of their children more. Apart from this, social housing programs can contribute to establishing new families. Finally, such options as a part-time job and flexible working hours are also important for parents. This proposed options could have a positive effect on fertility.
It can be said that the Northern European countries offer a mixed variety of childcare programs and part-time opportunities. The policies of northern European countries are aimed at both the labor force participation of women and fertility. These programs allow women to choose if they want to continue working their childbearing years or to take care of their children themselves. In this case, mothers are given long optional maternity leaves (Rechel et al. 2013). However, women tend to use childcare and continue working simultaneously in Northern European countries. There is almost no negative influence on their careers.
In Anglo-Saxon countries, governments developed programs mainly for poor people. Mothers are not given long optional maternity leave. Women have to choose if they work part-time or leave the labor market.
The governments of the Southern European countries implemented programs that are aimed at working mothers. These social programs include employment protection. In regions where public childcare is more available, women can continue working and take care of children without leaving the labor market. Whereas, in regions where childcare availability is low or even absent women can continue working only if they have families who support them. The social policies of the Southern European countries do not offer long maternal leaves and part-time opportunities. Moreover, the availability of childcare is low, and women have to rely on their families.
The French Fertility Policy
France was the first country that implemented an active family support program. Anderson (2016, p. 46) states that the French fertility policy was introduced in 1939 when the French government introduced the ‘Code de la Famille’. The fertility policy was developed by the French government because of the decrease in fertility and the increase in life expectancy. These two factors contributed to such problems as the fall in labor supply and future population decline.
The French policy is the most successful fertility policy at the moment. It is confirmed by the fact that France has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe. Three main characteristics of the policy are the payment of family benefits (housing benefit, family allowance, early childhood benefit); the introduction of specific forms of leave (maternity leave, paternity leave); tax allowances, or specific benefits. For instance, full tax benefits are given to women until their youngest child turns 18 (With 2.01 children per woman, France has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe 2013). Also, large family transport cards are introduced with a fare reduction of 30%. Retirement benefits are given to mothers.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the French Policy
There are some advantages and disadvantages that arose from the French policy. This policy contributes greatly to the increasing number of the workforce in France. Moreover, due to this policy, the fertility rate that is important for future cultural stability has increased. It seems that the French fertility policy does not have any limitations. However, there are some disadvantages. Because of the pro-natalist program, the French government has to spend more money on the health care sector. Also, it cannot be denied that the French immigration policy has led to a huge number of refugees and immigrants in the country. There is a popular belief the French fertility rate is increasing due to immigrants. Immigrants tend to have more children than the French, so they contribute a lot to the population growth or fertility in France. The French government spends a lot of money on programs related to immigration issues, and the costs continue to increase due to the fertility policy. Apart from this, the French policy is considered to be more feministic than familistic because women are not to get married and stay at home anymore to have children, and the French government provides strong support to single-parent families.
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Immigrants do not associate themselves with the citizens of the country where they live. They do not want to work and accept the new lifestyle; they just want to get benefits. The majority of immigrants living in France get married, give birth to children, and bring them up by their own culture. Although immigrants are the reason for the growth in population to a great extent, it is not appropriate for the future of society. To overcome this immigration problem related to fertility, the one possible solution is establishing a successful immigration policy, which is determined by creating conditions helping immigrants accept new laws and rules and successfully become conscientious citizens. Such a program will help immigrants and refugees to integrate into the local community.
To sum up, gender equality is a fundamental human right and a common value of the contemporary world. Women have come a long way from discrimination. Nowadays, women have access to educational resources, and they can find a job. The evolution of female labor market participation has led to an increase in the supply of woman’s labor. Such terms as female labor market participation and fertility are closely connected. Fertility rates tend to decline in developed countries. Contemporary women prefer to build their careers rather than give birth to children. Some pro-natalist policies are introduced to make child-rearing less difficult for working women and to increase the fertility rate. The brightest and most successful example of such policies is the French fertility program because France has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe. Although there are a lot of advantages to this policy, some disadvantages can be noticed too. The main negative characteristic is the fact that French fertility depends on immigrants to a great extent.
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