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The trend in female labour force participation; what can be expected for the future?

CPB Discussion Paper 93, 6 December 2007

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Netherlands experienced a strong increase in the labour force participation of women. This study investigates the increase of participation over the successive generations of women, and produces an educated guess for future participation.

For this purpose, we estimate a binary age-period-cohort model for the generations born between 1925 and 1986, using data from the Dutch Labour Force Survey 1992-2004. The results indicate that the increasing level of education, the diminishing negative effect of children, and unobserved cohort effects have played an important role.

According to our estimates, the increase in unobserved cohort effects has stopped since the generation born in 1955. This result is in line with results of studies on social norms and attitudes towards the combination of female employment and family responsibilities, which show a similar pattern over the successive generations. We conclude that the growth of female participation is likely to slow down in the near future.

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