Gender differences in education and labour market outcomes

Female participation in the labour market is lower than for men, in spite of the fact that the share of highly educated women can be up to 10 percentage points higher in certain regions in Greece, Italy, Poland and Turkey.

Female participation in the labour market has increased in OECD countries over the past decades, the overall rate exceeding 62% in 2017. However, important differences in the access to labour markets for women are still present. Across countries, the gender gap in employment rates is on average 15 percentage points (7 percentage points lower than in 2000). While at the turn of the millennium the gender gap in the employment rate was higher than 20 percentage points in many regions from 15 countries, in 2017 this occurred only in some regions from four countries. However, in 28% of OECD regions, less than half of working age women was employed in 2017, suggesting that services that allow reconciling family and work life, as well as incentives for labour market participation are quite diverse both within and across countries. Regional discrepancies between male and female employment were largest in Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Israel, Italy and the United States, with a more than 15 percentage point difference between the regions with the smallest and highest gender gap. This gender gap can be higher than 30 percentage points in regions in Mexico and Turkey, with extreme values being found in Chiapas and Central Anatolia Western South, respectively (Figure 3.25).

3.25. Gender gap in employment rate in the region with the largest gap
Difference between male and female employment rates; TL2; 2017 and 2000


While women’s participation in the labour market is still lagging, their educational attainment often exceeds that of men. In 2017, in 27 of the considered countries, the share of females with tertiary education was on average 10 percentage points higher than that of males (Figure 3.26). This difference was higher than 18% in Swietokrzyskie (Poland), Central Norrland (Sweden) and Ankara (Turkey). However, in certain regions, especially in Switzerland and Germany, the proportion of men with tertiary education is significantly higher than that of women (Figure 3.26).

3.26. Gender gap in tertiary education, 2017
Difference between the % of women and men with tertiary education; TL2


Gender differences are lower for unemployment rates than for employment rates, suggesting that promoting a higher female participation in the labour market is crucial to bridge the existing gap. The gender unemployment gap has decreased by 34% since 2011 in 27 out of 35 countries (Figure 3.27). On average, the gender gap in unemployment rates is 3 percentage points lower in most OECD regions, although there are still several exceptions such as South-eastern Anatolia East (Turkey), Campania (Italy) and West (Greece), with female unemployment rates being 27, 10 and 9 percentage points higher than for men, respectively.

3.27. Gender gap in unemployment rate in the region with the largest gap
Difference between female and male unemployment rates; TL2, 2017 and 2011



Employed people are all persons who, during the reference week, worked at least one hour for pay or profit or were temporarily absent from such work. Family workers are included. The female employment rate is calculated as the ratio between female employment and the female working-age population (15 to 64 years).

Unemployed persons are defined as those who are without work, are available for work, and have taken active steps to find work in the last four weeks. The unemployment rate is defined as the ratio between unemployed persons and labour force, where the latter is composed of unemployed and employed persons.

The share of people with tertiary education is defined by the proportion of men and women who have a degree in tertiary education (ISCED 5 to 8) over the population of the respective gender.


OECD (2018), OECD Regional Statistics (database),

See Annex B for data sources and country-related metadata.

Reference years and territorial level

From 2000 to 2017; TL2.

Further information

Territorial grids and regional typology (Annex A)

Figure notes

3.26: For the United States, Peru and Tunisia the working-age population corresponds to the population 15 years old and over. First available year is 2004 for Turkey; 2005 for Mexico, and Korea; and 2015 for Chile. Last available year is 2016 for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Chile and Mexico; 2015 for Japan; and 2014 for the United States.

3.27: For Australia, Canada, the United States, Peru, and Brazil the labour force population corresponds to the labour force 15 years old and over. Last available year is 2016 for Chile, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and Colombia; 2015 for Japan, and Russia; 2014 for the United States, and Peru; and 2013 for Brazil.

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