Gender issues

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Can government policies reverse undesirable declines in fertility?

Government policies can have a modest effect on raising fertility—but broader social changes lowering fertility are stronger

10.15185/izawol.23 23 Brainerd, E

by Elizabeth Brainerd

Since 1989 fertility and family formation have declined sharply in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Fertility rates are converging on—and sometimes falling below—rates in Western Europe, most of which are below replacement levels. Concerned about a shrinking and aging population and strains on pension systems, governments are using incentives to encourage people to have more children. These policies seem only modestly effective in countering the impacts of widespread social changes, including new work opportunities for women and stronger incentives to invest in education.

Female labor force participation in developing countries

Improving employment outcomes for women takes more than raising labor market participation—good jobs are important too

10.15185/izawol.87 87 Verick, S

by Sher Verick

While women’s labor force participation tends to increase with economic development, the relationship is not straightforward or consistent at the country level. There is considerably more variation across developing countries in labor force participation by women than by men. This variation is driven by a wide variety of economic and social factors, which include economic growth, education, and social norms. Looking more broadly at improving women’s access to quality employment, a critical policy area is enhancing women’s educational attainment beyond secondary schooling.

Encouraging women’s labor force participation in transition countries

Government policies can stimulate female labor force participation if coherent and well thought-out

10.15185/izawol.264 264 Pignatti, N

by Norberto Pignatti

Increasing women’s labor force participation is important to sustainable economic development, especially in economies with highly educated women and an aging population. Women’s participation varies across transition countries, driven by such economic and social factors as traditional views of gender roles and limited government support for caregivers. Still, in all countries there is clear scope for policies aimed at increasing women’s participation. In particular, in countries where women’s educational attainment is already high, policies to support a better work−life balance and female entrepreneurship look particularly promising.

Childcare expansion and mothers’ employment in post-socialist countries

A range of other policies and changes are needed for childcare expansion to increase mothers’ labor supply

10.15185/izawol.319 319 Lovász, A

by Anna Lovász

In 2002, the EU set targets for expanding childcare coverage, but most of the post-socialist countries are behind schedule. While childcare expansion places a heavy financial burden on governments, low participation in the labor force by mothers, especially those with children under the age of three, implies a high potential impact. However, the effectiveness of childcare expansion may be limited by some common characteristics of these countries: family policies that do not support women’s labor market re-entry, few flexible work opportunities, and cultural norms about family and gender roles shaped by the institutional and economic legacy of socialism.