How do local welfare systems support women's labour market participation? To what extent, and under which conditions, does female labour market integration contribute to strengthening social cohesion? These two questions formed the focus of the 'Impact of local welfare systems on female labour force participation and social cohesion' (FLOWS) project. Also aiming to analyse the Europe 2020 female employment targets, project partners worked to identify facilitators and inhibitors of women's participation in the labour force. Work centred on analysing practices, structures and policies relating to women's labour force participation and social cohesion, in 11 cities across Europe. Cities have varying capacities for integrating women into the labour market, with those on the 'least capable' side marked by high unemployment rates. However, researchers discovered that most cities surpass the 60 % target of the Lisbon Agenda, and that there is a relatively high employment rate of women with children of preschool age. Other study findings point to economic growth and the development of an advanced service sector as factors contributing to women's labour market integration, as well as cultural models that favour the employment of mothers of small children and an active role of men as fathers. They also indicate that women's educational attainment is largely accompanied by increased demand for women employees. Project activities revealed a number of interesting findings regarding welfare provisions such as care and human capital investment — the two kinds singled out as the most important for women's employment. For example, local welfare systems characterised by a high level of generosity towards public or publicly paid formal care for senior citizens are also usually generous in the support of family care. Importantly, welfare policies at local level are not closely linked to the promotion of women's employment. The employment targets of the EU are not a major priority at the local level. FLOWS findings point to a critical need to link labour market, educational and welfare policies, and improve political awareness of such issues at the local level. The FLOWS project made significant contributions to the literature on women, work and the welfare state. Specific areas that have benefited include: women's motivations and preferences towards the labour market; the role municipalities play; and the political processes of government structures in welfare policy.
Local welfare,women's labour, welfare systems, social cohesion, labour force participation