The share of working women with children increases, but remains below that of men
On the occasion of International Women's Day, Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, takes a look at the employment rate of women and men aged 25 to 49 according to the number of children aged 16 or younger. With a general employment rate of 77.8% for women and 84.9% for men in 2021, the gap between both employment rates amounts to 7.1 percentage points. In 1986, that gap was much larger (37.0 percentage points). In 2021, the difference between the employment rates of women and men with children remains quite large, but the gap between working women and men without children is completely closed.
The age of the youngest child has little impact on the employment rate of men, but women are more often going to work once the child is 6 or older.
Among women and men with a job, we see that part-time employment increases for women according to the number of children. For men, the number of children has little impact on full-time or part-time employment.
You will find more details here below.
No more difference in the employment rate of women and men without children
There are large differences in the employment rates of women and men according to the number of children.
It should be noted that the employment rate of women without children barely differs from that of men without children. In fact, in terms of percentage, slightly more women without children are working than men without children: 79.5% and 79.1% respectively (Table 1).
If the woman has only one child, the employment rate slightly decreases to 79.2%. However, for men, the employment rate increases sharply: 90% of men with only one child younger than 17 are working.
The employment rate is the highest both for women and men when they have two children: 80.8% of women and 93.2% of men are working.
For women with three children or more, the employment rate is by far the lowest: 59.6% of them have a job. 87% of men with three children or more are working. The difference between the employment rate of women and men is here the largest and amounts to 27.4 percentage points.
Employment rate of the 25-49 year-olds by gender and number of children younger than 17 (1986 and 2021)
(in percentage points)
(in percentage points)
|3 or more children||34.0%||88.6%||-54.5||59.6%||87.0%||-27.4|
The gap between the employment rate of women and men with children remains quite large in 2021. However, women have been catching up these past decades. The share of working women with children has sharply increased compared to 1986, while that of men has slightly decreased. Furthermore, the gap between the employment rates of women and men without children is now completely closed, while the employment rate of men without children in 1986 was still 28.4 percentage points higher than that of women without children.
The age of the youngest child has only an impact for women
For men with children, the employment rate varies little according to the age of the youngest child, it is always slightly above or slightly below 90%. However, for women, the employment rate in 2021 is clearly higher when the youngest child is aged 6 to 16. In that case, 79.4% of the 25-49-year-old women have a job. If the youngest child is under 3, 73.8% of women are working, and if the youngest child is between 3 and 5, 72.7% of women are working.
35 years ago, the employment rate of women was still the lowest (49.4%) when the youngest child was aged between 6 and 16. But even when the youngest child was under 6 years old, women's employment rate barely rose above 50%.
Employment rate of the 25-49 year-olds by gender and age of the youngest child (1986 and 2021)
|Youngest child aged between 0 and 2 years||51.9%||92.6%||73.8%||91.2%|
|Youngest child aged between 3 and 5 years||53.2%||92.9%||72.7%||89.9%|
|Youngest child aged between 6 and 16 years||49.4%||92.6%||79.4%||91.3%|
The more children, the more often women work part-time
In 2021, 35.3% of women aged 25-49 who have a job work part-time. Among their male counterparts, the percentage is 7.5%. For men, the number of children has little impact on full-time or part-time employment. However, for women, part-time employment increases according to the number of children. Half of employed women with three children or more work part-time. For men, the percentage is 8.3%.
35 years ago, we saw the same pattern but the share of working women and men in part-time jobs was much lower. Among men, part-time employment was virtually non-existent in 1986.
Chart 1: Part-time employed women and men aged 25-49 (percentage relative to all employed) by number of children under 17 (1986 and 2021)
The figures above refer to women and men aged between 25 and 49 and children up to 16 in their households. The kinship of the children with the woman/man is not taken into account.