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Occupational segregation and discrimination in Western Europe

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posted on 2007-02-19, 10:19 authored by Yekaterina Chzhen
This study explores the role of labour market discrimination in determining occupational distributions of men and women in Europe. Using data from the eighth wave (2001) of the European Community Household Panel (ECHP), the paper documents the degree of occupational segregation in a sample of three Western European countries with different occupational sex segregation regimes, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK). The paper then presents a simple model of occupational attainment with gender, education, age, main activity of the employer, and the number of children in the household as predictors. The effects of gender on the probability of working in an occupation, controlling for other personal characteristics, are estimated and compared across categories and across countries. Finally, to determine the role of labour market discrimination in assigning men and women to different occupations the “Blinder- Oaxaca” decomposition technique is applied to the determinants of the probability of working in an occupation. Labour market discrimination appears to play the largest role in Germany, though the overall degree of discrimination does not vary substantially across the three countries. The levels of discrimination differ across occupations, however. Of the three studied countries, Germany shows the highest levels of discrimination in managerial occupations, sales/services, plant and machine operators, and elementary occupations, whereas the UK does in professional occupations, “technicians and associate professionals”, and crafts/trades workers, while Denmark does in clerical occupations. Thus, it appears that in a country with a substantive commitment to gender equality (Denmark), men and women tend to be employed in separate occupational categories, but the differences in the probabilities of working in these occupations are largely due to the differences in personal characteristics, with the exception of managerial and clerical categories, where discrimination levels are higher. In the traditional family-centred country (Germany), on the other hand, women and men are treated very differently on the labour market, while the degree of segregation is lower than that in the substantively-egalitarian country. Yet, this is not to suggest that in heavily segregated labour markets men and women are separate but equal. On the contrary, highly female-dominated clerical occupations and male-dominated plant/machine operators have high discrimination levels in all three countries.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

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  • Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP)


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CHZHEN, Y. (2006). Occupational segregation and discrimination in Western Europe. Paper prepared for EPUNet Conference, May 8-9, Barcelona, Spain


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This conference paper is also available at: http://epunet.essex.ac.uk/Conf2006/papers/Chzhen_paper.pdf


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