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Thesis Spotlights – Female Labour Force Participation and Dynamics of Income Inequality in Switzerland, from 1992 to 2014

Issue 42: 1968 - 50 Years On Wed 28 Nov 2018 0

Laura Ravazzini, PhD, Switzerland

Email: laura.ravazzini [at]
Institution: Institut de Sociologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Time: September 2013 – September 2018
Supervisor: Prof. Christian Suter
Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (project 100017_143320): Income and wealth inequality, deprivation and wellbeing in Switzerland, 1990–2013

This thesis explores the drivers of female labour force participation and analyses the consequences of an increase in female labour force participation for income inequality at the household level. The study combines these two important macro indicators, namely female labour force participation and income inequality, and investigates their dynamics in the Swiss context from 1992 to 2014.

In the first part of the thesis, particular attention is placed on the determinants of female labour force participation at the macro and micro level. At the macro level, contextual variables are either included in the background to identify the socio-political context in which women live, or examined more in detail to determine their influence on women’s labour supply. At the micro level the wages and income of women and their partners are studied as the main determinants of women’s labour supply. These classical determinants are paired with socially constructed ideologies identified through gender role attitudes towards work and family. The first article of this thesis examines the effects of the expansion of childcare provision at the cantonal level with respect to maternal and paternal labour supply, while the second article of this thesis includes taxes and benefits, child-care costs, and culture as contextual variables in a joint labour supply model of women and their partners.

In the second part of the thesis, the focus shifts towards household income inequality. The third and last article of this thesis investigates how the increase in female labour force participation affects household income inequality in Switzerland. The analysis distinguishes between different income sources and household types, including both couples and singles.

All articles focus not only on the extensive participation of women on the labour market, but also on the intensity of this participation in terms of part-time rates.

The main databases used in this thesis are the Swiss Labour Force Survey (1992-2014) and on the Swiss Household Panel (2000-2014). Each article is built on a specific methodology. The first article identifies the effect of family policy reforms that were introduced at the beginning of the 2000s and uses a difference-in-differences estimation. The second article explores the impact of economic and attitudinal endowments of women and their partners with respect to women’s labour supply building a discrete labour supply model. The third article investigates the consequences of the expansion in female labour force participation for household income inequality through index decompositions and counterfactual analyses.

Results identify a small but significant impact of the expansion of childcare provision on mothers’ high part-time rates. No effects are found for paternal employment. Men play an important role in relation to women’s labour supply as partners influence women’s decisions, both through their economic and their attitudinal endowments. This income effect is particularly relevant for home-oriented women who feel strong moral pressures to stay home and perform childcare. In Switzerland, the total increase of female labour force participation contributed to keep household income inequality low. This effect was mainly due to the reduced variability in women’s wages.