Academic journal article Review of Social Economy

Structural Features of Female Employment Status and Earnings Mobility: The Experience in Germany

Academic journal article Review of Social Economy

Structural Features of Female Employment Status and Earnings Mobility: The Experience in Germany

Article excerpt

Abstract Structural changes in basic economic indicators, changes in traditional role patterns, and in female employment behavior shed light on the performance of the European labor markets in the 90s. This paper focuses on the cyclical sensitivity of women's employment status and earnings position in Germany. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) we test the hypothesis that labor market adjustments are not gender-neutral but affect women's employment status and women's relative earnings position to a greater extent than those of men. Cross-sectional as well as longitudinal analysis indicate positive effects on female employment status and earnings position during a period with worsening economic indicators. Logistic regression analysis confirms an increasing likelihood of an upward earnings mobility for women in the 90s. Notwithstanding these positive trends the results show that--due to social norms and attitudes women are still discriminated against in the labor market and in terms of their relative earnings position. Thus social policy is called upon to improve women's social and employment conditions.

Keywords: Labor force and employment, size and structure (J210), personal income and wealth distribution (D310), earnings mobility (J60)


In recent decades European labor markets were shaped by cyclical changes in basic economic indicators and by secular changes in the employment behavior of women and men. How women play a specific role in either the process of cyclical and secular restructuring of the labor market performance or in the longer-term process of structural economic change is subject to two hypotheses: (1) according to the flexible reserve hypothesis women are drawn into the labor market in periods of high demand and expelled in periods of low demand, and female employment is related to part-time work, low pay and "flexible" contracts: (2) a competing hypothesis postulates that women have taken steps to become more permanent, more stable, and better qualified employees with a reduced tendency to quit the labor market. However, these hypotheses can be seen as compatible: there exists a latent reserve of women in domestic and relatively unstable employment, which allows the mobilization of new labor supplies, and women already integrated in the labor market become permanent members of the labor force, though they are still called on as a floating reserve. (Rubery 1988)

Between 1970 and 1990 the labor market participation rate of women in Germany increased from 39 percent to 43 percent, in France from 40 percent to 46 percent and in the United States from 43 percent to 58 percent (Houseman 1995). The dynamics in women's labor market participation reflect country-specific changes of supply and demand-side trend factors in labor markets, changes of traditional role patterns, and changes in the welfare organization of social reproduction.

In the industrialized countries a general tendency seems to be at work towards producing a different pattern of women's labor market participation over the life-cycle which flattens out the M-shaped employment participation curve (Rubery 1988, Rubery et al. 1999). Demand-side determinants in general structure both the level and form of labor market participation. Demand factors can suppress the available labor supply that can be mobilized to fill new job opportunities. In the industrialized countries shifts in the sectoral composition from manufacturing to services have been accompanied by shifts in the occupational composition of employment and the growth of part-time employment: Part-time workers make up between 10 and 20 percent of the workforce, but in 1990 women in part-time jobs accounted for 65 percent of all workers in the United States, Greece and Italy, and about 90 percent in Germany and Belgium (ILO 1993, Maier 1993, Drobnic and Wittig 1997, Houseman 1995, Blossfeld and Rohwer 1997).

The dynamics of the labor market cannot be explained from a neoclassical perspective, beginning with the concept of depersonalized agents acting on the basis of exogenous preferences seeking to maximize either utility or profits. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.