Statistics Estonia: Estonian women more active in the workforce than EU average

2015 Pärnu Young Teacher of the Year Kaili Miil, Pärnu Sütevaka Humanitarian Gymnasium. (PRNPM/EMF)
By Egle Madiste
3/8/2016 5:04 PM

On International Women's Day, it is fitting to review women’s contribution to the Estonian economy. According to the Statistics Estonia, Estonian women, working primarily in the education and commercial fields, are reportedly more active in the workforce than their average counterparts elsewhere in the EU.

In 2015, there were more women than men of working age in the country—511,000 women, compared to just 473,000 men. Despite the nearly 40,000 person advantage, their total contribution to the workforce was smaller than that of the opposite sex, and as a result, women’s overall level of employment was lower as well, reported the statistics office’s blog (link in Estonian).

By contrast, however, women’s unemployment has been lower than men’s year after year; men’s unemployment levels only reached those of women in 2015. This is a situation that had not been seen even during the most recent economic boom.

Approximately 70,000 women annually are removed from the workforce due to studies or health concerns, the same relative amount as men. In previous years, however, even more women were removed from the workforce annually due to the retirement age.

In 2015, 60,000 women were removed from the workforce due to reaching retirement age, almost 20,000 more women than men. The biggest division in numbers based on sex was predictable, however—approximately 40,000 women are removed from the workforce every year while on pregnancy- or maternity leave or caring for another relative.

In contrast, only a few thousand men each year are inactive while caring for a relative.

It is also worth noting that according to Eurostat, a directorate-general of the European Commission responsible for providing statistical information to various institutions in the EU, workforce participation in the union is highest among the women of Germany and the Netherlands, followed by Scandinavia and Estonia. The rest of the Baltics scored similarly to their northern neighbor.

Women’s relative importance varies greatly by field

The majority of women work in such labor-intensive fields as education (50,000), commercial/retail (50,000), and the manufacturing industry (46,000). Very few women at all work in the mining and water supply industries.

The concentration of women in education reached its peak in 2015—83 percent of people occupied in the field of education were female. While one may get the impression while shopping that retail is just as dominated by women, statistics show that the playing field there is slightly more even, with just 59 percent of total retail employees being women. The amount of women employed in the manufacturing industry has reached 38 percent.

Women make up a significant part of those employed in a number of other fields as well: hospitality and catering (79%), the finance and insurance sector (75%), and health and social services (79%). Twice as many women as men work in the public sector. On the other hand, at just eight percent, women make up the smallest part of the workforce in the construction field.

Women’s contribution to the GDP

In addition to this labor market analysis, we can also attempt to quantify how big of a contribution women make to Estonia’s gross domestic product (GDP)—in other words, how large a part of the country’s everyday economic well-being is produced by women.

As statistics show that differences between the two sexes are not limited only to what has been mentioned in this article, in order to correctly assess this contribution we must break the entire economy down into its component parts. We can simplify this process and still get some idea, however, if we take a look at how women are distributed across more and less productive fields.

We must bear in mind, however, that in doing so we fail to take into account at the fact that women and men are often occupied in different stages of the manufacturing process, which in turn have distinct capacities for output.

In 2014, the highest value added per person employed in the Estonian economy was in the real estate sector, of which 57 percent of all employees were women. Women also made up the majority (67%) of persons employed in the highly productive finance and insurance sector.

Unfortunately, however, the total number of employees in these particular fields combined makes up only a small part of the total workforce—under 4 percent of all working women. By contrast, fields of work in the public sector employing 100,000 women or more are among those with the lowest indicators of productivity. The same applies to hospitality and catering as well.

GDP does not reflect women’s contributions in the home

It it still worth keeping in mind, however, that the GDP does not cover everything going on in the economy. The biggest factor that remains unrepresented is all household chores and work done in the home which is not hired in.

According to a 2012 study by Benjamin Bridgman et al, the inclusion of unpaid housework in the calculation of GDP could increase the nominal value of said work by nearly a quarter.

Thus, it is not only working women but also the group of women officially deemed “inactive” which help ensure our nation’s welfare, the latter simply in spending much of their time caring for loved ones.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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