Statistical sources and analysis

1.3.2 EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR MARKET TRENDS

In the same line as economic growth, employment growth has been more vigorous in Spain and Ireland that in Italy. In the following graphs (Graphs 4 and 5) the trends of the employment rates from 1996 are shown separately for women and men. While men in both Ireland and Spain have experienced slower employment growth since 2001, men in Italy seem to be entering a downward phase in 2005 after a slower but steadier upward trend compared with the other two countries. It is interesting to observe that, although at lower levels, the trends for Spain and Ireland are strikingly similar and that employment rates for men of these two countries seem to be converging.

On the other hand, employment trends for women show much lower average levels than for men in all three countries although the upward trends are much steadier. In this case the two countries showing similar trends are Italy and Spain, while Ireland has much higher female employment levels (which coincide with the EU25 averages) that have grown at similar male rates. It is interesting to note that in both Italy and Spain employment growth for women has been higher (the lines are steeper) than for men. Only in the case of Italy the rates remain below the EU25 average and seem to also be slightly decreasing in 2005 as is the case with men. This “massive” entry of women into the labour forces of all three countries pose specific challenges as far as policy is concerned in the area of reconciliation of work and family life. This project will also touch this area as one of the specific obstacles women may be facing in job-to job mobility.

Although unemployment in all countries has dropped significantly, the very high level in Spain in previous years (18% compared to around 12% in the case of Ireland and Italy in 1996) continues to influence its higher unemployment level compared to the other two countries more recently, although it has already reached the EU25 level by 2005 (around 8.5%). In all three countries men’s unemployment rate was below the EU25 average (7.9%)6 in 2005. In the case of female unemployment, only Ireland remained well below the EU25 average (at only 4% and even lower than men’s unemployment), while Italy converged to the EU25 average (at around 10%) and Spain remained above the average (at 12%). Even so, the drop in unemployment for women has been faster than for men. Both the employment and unemployment rates show that all three countries have been experiencing important changes in their economies over the past decade and that the entry of women into the labour force has been one of the most notable changes. The fact that women have lower employment and higher unemployment (except in Ireland) reveal the general difficulties and obstacles that women face in the labour market.

Even in the case of Ireland, where the statistics look positive and better than in the other two study countries, there is a 20 percentage point difference in activity rates7 between women and men, significantly higher than the 15.3 percentage point EU25 average difference. Looking at the activity rates per se, this means that while 20% of men in working age in Ireland are inactive (studying, disabled, caring for other family members or for other reasons), 40% of women in Ireland are also inactive. While inactivity due to engagement in education and retirement is not a negative reason, all other reasons for inactivity reflect mostly negative aspects of economic and social discrimination and/or disadvantage8. In Italy and Spain the differences are slightly worse: with 24 and 23 percentage points difference respectively. In Italy only half of the female working force is active, while in Spain the figures are similar to Ireland (around 40% of women in working age are still inactive). Education is the main reason for inactivity in the 15-24 age group for both women and men and the difference in rates of inactivity of younger men and women is less pronounced (10 percentage points or less in our study countries) than for older age groups. However, inactivity rates of older population groups is linked to other factors and differs more between older women and men, being much more pronounced for women than for men. While men between 25 and 54 years of age across the EU claim “own illness or disability” and “other reasons” for being out of the workforce, women cite these reasons as well but also add “personal or family responsibilities” as a main reason or the main reason (men also do but to a much more lesser extent, almost statistically negligible). In our study countries, personal or family responsibilities as the main reason for inactivity reaches very high proportions (between 40% to 70%), while at EU25 level this reason reaches only 10%. This is an important element to keep in mind when analysing cultures around job mobility in our countries. Although we will be focussing on women who are already in the workforce, the reality in our study countries with respect to the unpaid care activities is very much linked to access and permanence in employment. Women face a much higher number of interruptions in their professional careers over the life cycle than men do, and this very clearly affects job-to-job mobility, not always in a positive sense.