8. Demographic changes do not occur in a vacuum. Family life, social attitudes and values, gender roles and working arrangements are changing. Economic, social, political and cultural trends will influence how women age. These trends will also have important consequences for women’s health and quality of life. This section highlights some important socio-economic issues for women.

Marriage and Divorce

9. Women’s lives have changed significantly throughout Europe. There is a general decline in marriage rates and an increase in the number of divorces across Europe. In 1998, the rate of marriage in the EU was estimated at 5 per 1,000 population compared to 6.3 in 1980. At the same time, the average age of first marriage and the average age at first birth are also rising.

Marriages and Divorces in the EU (1960-95)

Country Marriages Divorces
No. in 1995 Difference since 1960 (%) Rate in 1995 (%) Difference since 1960 (%) No. in 1995 Difference since 1960 (%) Rate in 1995 (%) Difference since 1960 (%)
EU15 1901000 -24.1 5.1 -54.4 677500 297.7 1.8 237.7
Portugal 65800 -5.3 6.6 -18.2 12300 1545.1 1.2 1369.5
Austria 42900 -26.6 5.3 -55.6 18200 127.2 2.3 99.0
Italy 283000 -27.0 4.9 -57.4 27000 0.5
Germany 430500 -37.5 5.3 -79.8 169400 130.8 2.1 105.9
France 254000 -20.6 4.4 -60.3 117000 287.6 2.0 204.1
Finland 23700 -27.7 4.6 -59.5 14000 283.7 2.7 232.8
Belgium 51500 -21.0 5.1 -40.7 35000 662.3 3.5 586.0
Spain 196900 -16.9 5.0 -53.9 33100 0.8
UK 321000 -18.4 5.5 -37.1 170100 559.0 2.9 489.0
Luxembourg 2100 -7.2 5.1 -40.7 700 375.2 1.8 264.1
Greece 64000 10.0 6.1 -14.2 11000 346.4 1.1 255.0
Denmark 34700 -3.2 6.6 -18.0 13000 94.2 2.5 70.0
Sweden 33600 -32.9 3.8 -75.9 22500 151.5 2.6 113.1
Netherlands 81500 -8.6 5.3 -47.2 34200 502.4 2.2 345.4
Ireland 15600 1.0 4.4 -25.2

Source: Eurostat Database 1997

 

Women and Work

10. Women are increasingly becoming an essential part of the labour force. For example, in all developed regions women make up the largest proportion of those working in the services sector, and the smallest proportion of those working in agriculture.

Percentage distribution of the labour force by sex 1990/1997

Developed
Regions
Female Labour Force Male Labour Force
  Agriculture Industry Services Agriculture Industry Services
Eastern
Europe
16 29 55 17 44 39
Western
Europe
5 16 79 7 38 55
Other
Developed
Regions
3 13 84 5 31 64

Source: Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat (1999) Key Indicators of the Labour Market.

11. In the European Union, female employment has grown four times faster in comparison to male employment since 1994 (European Commission, 2000). Yet, women continue to represent the largest reserve of non-employed and under-employed skilled labour within the EU.

 

Percentage distribution of the labour force by sex 1990/1997

Country Waged and salaried workers Self employed workers Contributing family workers
Women Men Women Men Women Men
Portugal 73 71 26 28 2 1
Austria 87 86 9 12 5 2
Italy 77 68 17 29 7 3
Germany 92 87 6 13 2 0
France
Finland 90 81 10 18 1 1
Belgium 82 81 10 18 8 1
Spain 79 75 15 24 5 2
UK 92 83 7 17 1 0
Luxembourg
Greece 58 53 19 42 24 5
Denmark 95 88 6 12 0 0
Sweden 94 85 5 15 1 0
Netherlands 90 87 8 13 2 0
Ireland 91 72 8 27 2 1

Source: Yearbook of Labour Statistics (1998) Key Indicators in the Labour Market.
12. The unemployment rate for women in the EU is higher for women than for men in all countries except France, the UK, Sweden and Ireland.

 

Unemployment Rate ( % ) Aged 15 – 64

Country Female 1997 Male 1997
Portugal 7.9 6.2
Austria 5.3 5.1
Italy 16.8 9.8
Germany 11.0 9.0
France 10.9 14.2
Finland 15.1 13.9
Belgium 11.6 7.1
Spain 28.4 16.2
United Kingdom 5.8 8.2
Luxembourg
Greece 15.1 6.4
Denmark 6.5 4.6
Sweden 7.5 8.5
Netherlands 7.2 4.4
Ireland 10.4 10.6

Source: UN Development Programme (1999) Human Development Report

13. There is still evidence of wage differences between men and women in the EU despite the existence of equal pay legislation. The Nordic member states of the EU have the highest rates of gender equality, partly because of high levels of income in relation to men and partly because of high levels of education.

 

Womens’ wages in manufacturing as a percentage of mens’ wages

Graph of Womens’ wages in manufacturing as a percentage of mens’ wages

Source: Womens’ Indicators and Statistics Database. (1998) Yearbook of Labour Statistics 1977-1998. Geneva.


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