Gender, education and employment

Written by Olivia Arigho-Stiles on . Posted in Current publications, Publications

Blossfeld_m.fl_2015Gender, education and employment: An international comparison of school-to-work transitions. Hans Peter Blossfeld, Jan Skopek, Moris Triventi and Sandra Buchholz (eds). (Edward Elgar, 2015)

“Across all modern societies, women have caught up with men in terms of education” Jan Skopek, co-editor of a new edited volume on gender comparisons in the labour market and member of Professor Hans-Peter Blossfeld’s research team at the EUI SPS Department , tells EUI Times.

With this in mind, you would be forgiven for thinking that it follows therefore, that women would also be taking up jobs with higher authority and income.

But according to a new book Gender, Education and Employment; An International Comparison of School-to-Work Transitions, this has not turned out to be the case. Edited by Professor Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Jan Skopek, Moris Triventi and Sandra Buchholz, the book assesses the differences in the employment patterns of men and women in European societies. It finds that while women may be as well (even better) educated than men, they still occupy jobs that have lower income and authority. Against the context of postindustrial change, the book reveals that women’s educational advantage has not fully translated into better job prospects.

According to Skopek and his colleagues, this can be traced to the persistence of gender segregation, or “the fact that men and women pursue different subjects. But there are also other things, for example, discrimination. But this is very hard to show.” While many studies have addressed the issue of gender differences, they have mostly analysed the entire labour force. As Skopek explains, this book instead adopts a life course approach and looks at men and women as they first enter the labor market following their school years.

One of the most intriguing findings concerns the labour market opportunities for women in post-socialist countries such as Estonia and Russia. Under the Communist regime, women and men enjoyed more equal labour market opportunities. But after labour market liberalization following the fall of the Iron Curtain, women’s career prospects dramatically declined relative to men. Family policies introduced in the post-socialist period, according to the book, in fact reinforced traditional family formation patterns and encouraged mothers to stay at home.

Also noteworthy is the book’s finding that contrary to popular belief, although Scandinavian countries do tend to be highly egalitarian, Southern European countries are among the few countries in which there is a female advantage in terms of income and authority in the job market. Conversely, Scandinavian countries display a female disadvantage in the jobs that men and women enter at early stages.

Gender, Education and Employment; An International Comparison of School-to-Work Transitions therefore offers a compelling analysis of gender inequalities in the labour market. Comparing a diverse range of European societies, the book is an important contribution to research on why men still out-earn women, and continue to occupy higher-authority positions. Its findings are testament to the complexity of cultural, historical and political influences in determining men and women’s economic statuses.