Female labour force participation in the United Kingdom: evolving characteristics or changing behaviour?

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 28 June 2004

Working Paper No. 221
By Maria Gutierrez-Domenech and Brian Bell

The working-age female participation rate in the United Kingdom increased by 7 percentage points between 1984 and 2002. The purpose of this paper is to quantify how much of the rise reflects changes in the socio-demographic structure of the female population and how much can be attributed to changes in behaviour or other uncontrolled factors. The paper uses a time series of cross-sections from the Labour Force Survey, and applies a method of growth accounting. The results show that, between 1984 and 2002, changes in the structure of the female population contributed to two thirds of the growth in female participation, whereas one third is explained by changes in behaviour or other factors.

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