Women’s workforce particpation

April 15th, 2012 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The SST report:

A generation of young, educated New Zealand is being lost to the workforce because they can’t afford childcare.

Many tertiary educated and trained mothers are deciding to retrain as teachers or nurses, professions that offer more flexible work options. …

New Zealand has one of the lowest workforce participation rates for women in the 25-34 age group compared to the rest of the OECD.

Labour’s early childhood education spokeswoman Sue Moroney said the government’s reluctance to look at the issue was causing skills and talent to be lost to the workforce.

Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden had the highest participation rates, and also spent the most on childcare, and had generous provisions.

I went looking for research on this, and found this paper. It’s 40 pages long and has every stat you can think of on workforce participation by women, written by a (then) Treasury boffin.  One thing he noted was:

The previous section has shown that differences between countries can be attributed in part to differences in the participation of, and prevalence of, different types of families. At least some of the difference between countries, however, might simply be due to the definition of “participation”. We illustrate this by comparing participation rates in New Zealand to those in the highest-participating countries in the OECD, the Nordic countries.

In official statistics, women on paid parental leave should be counted as employed, even though they are not working.21 Nordic countries have amongst the most generous paid parental leave provisions in the OECD

That is worth remembering. In these statistics, you are counted as still being in the workforce if on paid parental leave, so there is no surprise there is a correlation. They modeled for this impact:

The maximum effect of these differences in paid parental leave can be modelled by assuming that women take the maximum leave available for all their children and adjusting the reported participation figures to reflect this. Figure 24 shows that after this adjustment there is a marked ‘dipping’ in participation rates in the Nordic countries. When adjusted, the profile of women’s rates in these countries loses its n-shape, and becomes much more like the profile in New Zealand. The difference in participation rates of women aged 25 to 39 years is also markedly reduced after adjustment.

So extending paid parental leave makes the stats looks better, because women on paid parental leave are counted as being in the workforce. But whether it actually makes a significant difference to the number of women actually being in paid work, is far less clear. Some other interesting stats:

Among New Zealand women, the presence and age of children, being a sole or partnered mother, and level of qualifications have a strong effect, and each factor has an effect which is independent of the other two. Mothers with different combinations of these characteristics have widely varying participation rates. At one extreme, for example, sole parents with a pre-school child and no school qualification have a participation rate of only 32%. At the other extreme, partnered mothers with a child aged 10-17 and with a post-school qualification have a participation rate of 91%.

And for the 25 – 34 year old age group:

Compared to other OECD countries, New Zealand has a relatively high overall female participation rate. Yet, participation rates for women between the ages of 25 and 39 are conspicuously low by international standards. Few other countries show a dip in participation rates in the peak childbearing ages. This point of difference seems to be driven by a combination, in New Zealand, of relatively low participation rates among mothers with young children and sole mothers, together with high fertility rates and high proportions of sole parent families.

So arguably the welfare reforms which will discourage sole parent families to have further children, will increase the participation rates, as well as the increased work-testing requirements.

The research also notes (and this was done in 2005 when Labour was Government):

Differences in participation between countries may also reflect differences in government policies (such as tax and benefit policies) or social norms (such as the attitudes towards, and expectations of, women working compared to looking after their children). OECD countries can be grouped according to their pattern of women’s participation across ages, and these groupings to a considerable extent reflect similarities in the countries’ values, social conventions, institutions and recent histories. Not surprisingly, New Zealand’s profile is most similar to Australia and the United Kingdom: countries with whom we share a common heritage. The participation profile of New Zealand men, relative to the OECD, is also similar in many ways to that of New Zealand women, with relatively high participation rates for younger and older people, but relatively low rates for people aged around 25-39. These similarities support the case for the existence of particular “country effects”, which affect both women and men.

I think cultural issues are always significant.

The paper concludes:

How does all this inform the public policy question of whether, and how, to encourage the greater participation of women in New Zealand? Some initial thoughts are be hazarded here. Firstly, since different groups of women, and mothers, have widely differing participation rates, any policies which aim to increase the participation of women would need to be carefully focused. One type of policy is unlikely to work for all women. Also, since some groups of women already have high participation rates, policies which aim to increase this participation even further may incur high deadweight costs.

A very interesting paper. The issues are far more complex than paid parental leave.

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40 Responses to “Women’s workforce particpation”

  1. holysheet (391 comments) says:

    Before we extend the paid parental leave, we need to look at if it is working as described by the experts. My understanding of PPL is that it enables the mother and child to forge good bonds and hopefully will result in the raising of good future citizens. I can see the merits of this. But does it work in reality?

    If the fact that mother and child are better off by this time together, why is it that most of the problem children come from the unemployed? If one section of the population has plenty of time to bond with their children, it is surely this group. What has gone wrong here or is it all BS that the more time a mother and child have together at an early age is beneficial?

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  2. Nostalgia-NZ (5,213 comments) says:

    Who looks after Asian children, or for that matter many PI children as their parents work, grandparents. Has nz become so ‘sophisticated’ that the extended family are ignored as source of childcare. Check out the schools, even the private schools and see who are picking up the kids or walking them home. Why does government need to be involved, either stay home and look after you kids, pay for them to be looked after, or nut something out with family or friends – but stop bleating about it and looking for handouts.

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  3. Portia (175 comments) says:

    If a woman is unemployed when she gets pregnant, she won’t be entitled to PPL irrespective of how many weeks it covers.

    Holysheet – that’s one benefit, but not the only one. Another positive is that it makes it easier for working women to have a family in the first place. And it is called “parental” because all or part of the leave can be taken by fathers instead.

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  4. Andrei (2,657 comments) says:

    Yes this country is run by MARXISTS that want women to be work force drudges, little worker ants in the great machine of state, instead of being mothers, raising their children.

    There is nothing wrong with being a stay at home mother – it sure beats sticking labels on jars in the jam factory, rubber stamping forms at the WINZ office or even conveyancing at the lawyers chambers.

    Women have been conned by Marxists and we are all losers as a result

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  5. holysheet (391 comments) says:

    Portia, why should the taxpayer fund the parents to have children. Surely this is a decision made not on affordability but on the desire to have them.

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  6. Redbaiter (8,923 comments) says:

    Andrei is perfectly correct-

    MARXIST CRAP and that the National Party (and its advocates like David Farrar) so frequently buy into this bullshit is the main reason they can’t get NZ out of the hole it is in.

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  7. homepaddock (408 comments) says:

    The first sentence says women are being lost to the workforce. The second says they’re retrainign as teachers and nurses. Don’t these professions count as the workforce anymore?

    It takes 16 paragraphs in the SST story before there’s mention of a father – why is chidlcare only portrayed as mothers’ issue not a parents’ issue?

    PPL advocates list the benefits of a stay-at-home aprent; childcare advocates look at the benefits of beign in work. T

    There are costs and benefits to both options – the political push is for more of the costs to be carried by the taxpayer.

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  8. eszett (2,409 comments) says:

    Yes, Andrei and red, women should really know their place: Children, Church and Kitchen.

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  9. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    If it is so fucking wonderful staying at home with kids then where’s the queue of men? There isn’t one, though there are some very capable stay at home Dads. this is because at times motherhood is sheer fucking drudgery, but women are well suited to it as I have blogged here.
    http://nowoccupy.blogspot.com/2012/04/wimmin-still-havin-children-after-all.html

    And to all the bleaters about it being a choice and they shouldn’t have to subsidise a woman’s choice, yada yada; You are all obviously the lucky types who got to choose whether or not you got a fucking uterus. Me, I didn’t get a choice. There are certain anatomical differences between men and women and this needs to be compensated for. It’s not left vs right rubbish, it is a basic fact that only women have a period of up to 6 months where they are physically challenged by the burdens of new motherhood. In my view it is a basic human right. Your career is either postponed or interrupted by Motherhood. Sure, you don’t have to have kids but that consigns you to missing out on a huge realm of human experiences and insight beneficial to society. Wheres the choice in that?

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  10. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    So we spend a fortune educating people to do work that they can’t do when they get pregnant and have children. That makes a lot of sense.

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  11. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    Hold on Ms Watson, before you pop a vein.

    1. If it is so fucking wonderful staying at home with kids then where’s the queue of men?

    I was one of those that wanted to quit my job and look after the kids, but my wife insisted she was going to stay home. This is a decission made between two adults and the state has no business in that decission making. If you don’t want to stay at home with the kids, sort it with your partner (Or whatever they call it these days).

    2. And to all the bleaters about it being a choice and they shouldn’t have to subsidise a woman’s choice, yada yada; You are all obviously the lucky types who got to choose whether or not you got a fucking uterus. Me, I didn’t get a choice.

    First of all who gave me a choice? And you might not have the coice of ‘having a uterus’, you have the choice of getting pregnant, nobody is forcing you to have children.

    3. In my view it is a basic human right.

    It is a basic human right? Demanding other people to pay for your decissions is a basic right? Are you serious?

    4. Sure, you don’t have to have kids but that consigns you to missing out on a huge realm of human experiences and insight beneficial to society. Wheres the choice in that?

    It is called priorities. Can’t make up your mind? Your problem, not mine and don’t make it mine.
    Sort it out with the sperm donor.

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  12. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I’m not angry I just like to use the “f” word a lot. Bad habit I know.
    And really I’m just glad the tax payer was there for me when I needed them. I don’t know how I would have had the time to go to the gym to get back into shape otherwise.

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  13. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    Monique Watson (344) Says:
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:12 am

    If it is so fucking wonderful staying at home with kids then where’s the queue of men? There isn’t one, though there are some very capable stay at home Dads. this is because at times motherhood is sheer fucking drudgery, but women are well suited to it as I have blogged here.
    http://nowoccupy.blogspot.com/2012/04/wimmin-still-havin-children-after-all.html

    And to all the bleaters about it being a choice and they shouldn’t have to subsidise a woman’s choice, yada yada; You are all obviously the lucky types who got to choose whether or not you got a fucking uterus.
    Me, I didn’t get a choice.
    Ah yes you did. and you made a choice. That is YOUR CHOICE.
    There are certain anatomical differences between men and women and this needs to be compensated for.
    REALLY! WHY?
    It’s not left vs right rubbish, it is a basic fact that only women have a period of up to 6 months where they are physically challenged by the burdens of new motherhood. In my view it is a basic human right.
    Your career is either postponed or interrupted by Motherhood.
    SORRY BUT I VALUE MOTHERHOOD AS A CAREER. Doesn’t mean I should pay for our choices in this matter and yours as well. Nor any others other than my own family.
    Sure, you don’t have to have kids but that consigns you to missing out on a huge realm of human experiences and insight beneficial to society. Wheres the choice in that?
    I doubt I missed out and I can tell you its much fun having Grandkids. (especially when you can get your own back and send them home. :lol: )

    The problem with womens liberation that was always going to be is that its a stick to beat men with.

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  14. Fletch (6,392 comments) says:

    A generation of young, educated New Zealand women is being lost to the workforce because they can’t afford childcare.

    “Being lost”? What a way to looks at it! Seems these days a woman is of no value if she is not part of the workforce. It’s just as hard or even more work to stay at home.
    Stay at home mums are really taking a beating this week, what with Hilary Rosen’s put-down of stay-at-home mum Ann Romney as a woman who had “never worked a day in her life.”

    Even Obama distanced himself from that one

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  15. Lucia Maria (2,428 comments) says:

    Viking,

    The problem with womens liberation that was always going to be is that its a stick to beat men with.

    And it wasn’t particularly liberating.

    I happen to think of motherhood as a career as well, and one that is far more satisfying than working in an office.

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  16. Fletch (6,392 comments) says:

    Obama on why wife Michelle didn’t have the luxury to stay home but had to work –

    President Barack Obama has said his wife didn’t have “the luxury” of staying home with their two young daughters, but in fact the couple enjoyed a pretty hefty income — most of which was earned by Michelle.

    In a speech Friday, the president said that when daughters Malia and Sasha were born, the couple couldn’t afford for Michelle to stay at home with the girls.

    Michelle Obama was dedicated to her career, and “we didn’t have the luxury for her not to work,” the president said.

    But Terence P. Jeffrey pointed out in a post on CNSNews.com that the Obamas, both Harvard Law graduates, were making a combined annual income of $479,062 in 2005, when Barack Obama began serving in the U.S. Senate. Their daughters were seven and four years old.

    At the time, Michelle Obama was paid $316,962 a year to handle community affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, and her husband had a salary of $162,100 as a freshman senator, Jeffrey said.

    Ok, so Obama’s $162,100 was not enough to live on? They could not “afford” the “luxury” of Michelle not going to work?
    I call B/S…

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  17. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Takes a lot of cash to breakthru the “Redneck Ceiling” Fletch! :)

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  18. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I think of motherhood as an occupation akin to mining. There is no real virtue in it and the perils are well documented but it’s an occupation that must be either tolerated or actively cultivated if society is to prosper into the future.

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  19. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @Fletch

    “Obama distanced himself from that one”

    Rosen, who started this, is very much part of Obama’s re-election team and a frequent visitor to the White House.
    Obama only distanced himself after it became apparent he was going to lose this argument.

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  20. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Most of us Jokers are very keen to cultivate motherhood Monique, at least in the beginning! :)

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  21. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Ha ha JB Seconds of pleasure and a lifetime of pain. And paying :)

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  22. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    I have loved every second of the many years I have been paying for that few seconds of pleasure Monique. :)

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  23. Lucia Maria (2,428 comments) says:

    Monique,

    No real virtue in it? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s the ultimate training in selflessness.

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  24. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Lucia, An ecumenical question.

    I was a Presbyterian, my wife was a Catholic. We were married by a Priest and despite our promises we brought the children up as Pagans.

    Which of us are damned? :)

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  25. Komata (1,191 comments) says:

    Could I respectfully suggest that in fact women are now reaping the benefit of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s which told women at the time that staying at home, having children and being mothers as terribly old fashioned and oppressive and that it was cool to get out and go to work. By working they would be ‘liberated’ and ‘free’. and be able to make their own decisions free from male oppression, since all men were MCP’s!! Unfortunately it hasn’t quite turned out the way it was intended and the much-vaunted liberation’ has actually turned into a form of slavery to ‘the man’ and the machine, although noticeably, despite their strident calls to effectively castrate every male for ‘crimes against women’ many of the advocates of the ‘liberation’ have now become conformists and actually married!!. Coincidentally with the liberation of women, it was found that women were very good with Data Entry and other highly repetitive jobs, and that they could be paid less to do the sorts of jobs men were doing previously. Low wages, ability to do boring repetitive jobs and a desire to be ‘free’ – what better formula could an employer want, especially as computers were coming into use and women were very adept at using them. Children of course were so ‘yesterday’ and stifling’ and the family inevitably suffered, while any woman who dared to suggest that they actually wanted to be a ‘stay at home mum’ was ridiculed and denigrated by the sisterhood. all of which has resulted in the current situation, where girls can do anything’ – except be what they may want to be,’Mum’s, stay at home parents, and even (gasp!!) married; to a male (no, no, not married to a man, oh the humiliation!!). This latter is slightly tongue in cheek, but given that everything has consequences, some of which may not be foreseen, this would appear to be one of these situations.

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  26. Portia (175 comments) says:

    Portia, why should the taxpayer fund the parents to have children?

    Why should the taxpayer fund people to retire at 65? Why should the taxpayer fund roads which predominantly benefit commercial road transport operators? Why should the taxpayer fund the health/education system?

    Aren’t these debates simply about the distribution of public funds? Which is itself just a contest of competing values.

    In an abundant world, everything’s affordable, but conversations are far less dynamic :)

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  27. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Are you saying NZ women are now all mothers in the image of say Helen Clark for example Komata?

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  28. Lucia Maria (2,428 comments) says:

    Johnboy,

    Neither you or your wife at this point, as you are both still alive and able to do something about the situation, or at least try.

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  29. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Commenting at KB does not necessarily indicate sentient life Lucia! :)

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  30. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    I retract that last comment! :)

    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2012/04/blogs-vs-twitter-and-facebook/#disqus_thread

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  31. Lucia Maria (2,428 comments) says:

    Johnboy,

    Yeah, though we can at least pretend.

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  32. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Lucia! :)

    Read above. :)

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  33. Lucia Maria (2,428 comments) says:

    Johnboy,

    I saw it when I posted my comment. I’ve read it and agree with a great deal, however I’m sticking with my comment as well. :). I’ve found it easier to treat people as intelligent until they prove otherwise.

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  34. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    “I’ve found it easier to treat people as intelligent until they prove otherwise.”

    Sorry I have disappointed you then Lucia.

    Say a couple of Hail Mary’s for me! :)

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  35. Lucia Maria (2,428 comments) says:

    Johnboy, will do. :)

    In the meantime, everyone should continue talking about women’s workforce participation and forget this little detour ever occured. Apologies for the distraction.

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  36. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Little distractions are what makes life interesting IMHO! :)

    I specialise in them! :)

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  37. salt (133 comments) says:

    @viking2: women’s lib itself was, and is, purely about women having the same freedom as men to control the direction of their own lives. It isn’t about man-hating. Sure, it meant that men lost a few of the benefits they had reaped from inequality, but surely you’d agree that was ok in the name of fairness? I can never understand why people find this confusing.

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  38. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I just found myself glaring at my husband mop in hand. That phrase “stick to beat men with” is obviously playing on my mind.
    Come ere kids!! Theres no such thing as the anti-smacking bill in America.

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  39. Johnboy (16,597 comments) says:

    Monique. AKA “Mrs. Mopp”. :)

    I shall call you that henceforth! :)

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  40. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    For Monique.

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