Women with low levels of education face a double disadvantage in the labour market
March 2018 - Gender employment gaps are persistent. OECDs 2017 The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle showed that despite decades of progress, women are still much less likely than men to engage in paid work and, when they do work, are less likely to progress in their careers or become business owners, more likely to work shorter hours, and end up stuck in precarious, low-status jobs.
Women with low levels of education suffer a double disadvantage. Gender employment gaps exist across all levels of education, but tend to be widest among men and women with low levels of education. On average across OECD countries, the gender employment gap among men and women with low educational attainment stands at 19.5 percentage points, more than double the gap among highly-educated men and women (8.5 percentage points) (Figure 1). This pattern holds across almost all OECD countries, though there are exceptions. For example, in Korea, where highly educated women’s options to return to well-paid regular employment after a period out of the workforce to provide care to young children or dependent relatives are limited. Rather than taking up low-paid non-regular employment, many well-educated Korean women do not return to the labour force if they can afford to do so.
Education correlates with wages, and less-educated women generally earn less than both highly-educated women and less-educated men. Childcare fees further reduce the attractiveness of labour force participation, and for many less-educated women with low wages it does not always pay (or pay much) to be in work.
- OECD (2017), The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, OECD Publishing, Paris.
- OECD (2018), "Education and earnings" (database)
- OECD (2017), "OECD measures of childcare costs and related work incentives" (database)