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Impact of local welfare systems on female labour force participation and social cohesion

Final Report Summary - FLOWS (Impact of local welfare systems on female labour force participation and social cohesion)

Executive Summary:
From a local welfare state perspective, the aim of the FLOWS project has been to analyse the cause and effect of women’s employment in a comparative perspective. The two primary research questions have been: how do eleven European local welfare municipalities support the entry of women into the labour market within the overall framework of the EU employment (2020) strategy? And in turn: does the integration of women into the labour market enhance social cohesion, social equality and full citizenship?

The FLOWS project has been organized in different building blocks/work packages:

First, (Work Packages 1–3) the aim was to map statistically (a) women’s employment patterns, (b) the functioning of local labour markets, and (c) national and local welfare state programmes supporting female employment in the area of child care, eldercare and lifelong learning measures.

Second, (WPs 4–6) the focus has been on (a) local policy processes and (b) factors conditioning women’s dispositions to entering the labour market. After conducting qualitative interviews with local policy actors, we have analysed the extent to which EU employment goals and national level welfare policies and employment strategies have had an impact on local policy formation and implementation, while the study of women and the labour market was conducted using a survey questionnaire covering a representative sample of women in eleven cities, as well as 44 focus group interviews with women with care responsibilities.

Third, (WPs 7–9) the aim has been to synthesize and disseminate the findings drawn from WPs 1–6. The aim here has especially been (a) to analyse whether female employment leads to social cohesion and full citizenship and (b) to disseminate research results to academic, political and civil society communities. The production of collective publications is still in the initial phase and will accelerate over the year to come. In total, six major publications will be published: four books and two edited journals.

Two of the major research results are:

First, the local welfare state has a much more limited impact on women’s employment decisions than researchers and policy makers normally appear to think. The employment rates of women under age 45 do not vary considerably from city to city, even though the differences in the quality of local welfare state programmes are massive. This is due to the highly complex nature of the basis for women’s employment decisions; numerous factors interact with one another, factors of cultural, institutional, social and economic nature. Still, the local welfare state and good quality service provision are important for social cohesion and a healthy work–life balance.

Second, demand-side factors, including growth in the public sector, are of major importance for women’s employment. The financial crisis and welfare state retrenchment thus threaten women’s employment opportunities. This further indicates how a supply-side oriented social investment strategy cannot be expected to foster growth in women’s employment unless connected to demand-side initiatives.

Project Context and Objectives:
The FLOWS project is about the causes and effects of women’s labour market integration, which is an issue that represents a major challenge for the EU and its member states and supposedly a precondition for the sustainability of the European social model. The overall aim is to analyse (1) how local welfare systems support women’s labour market participation, as well as (2) the extent to which (and under which conditions) female labour market integration has contributed to strengthening social cohesion. The project focuses on how public and private welfare services, such as care and lifelong learning systems, intended to support women’s labour market integration have been designed; on how women of different classes, qualifications, ethnicities and geographical locations have grasped and made use of such policies; and on how the increase in women’s labour market integration has affected structural inequality and social cohesion.

The city/municipal level has been chosen as the level of analysis because the provision of welfare services associated with women’s integration into the labour market is produced and delivered to citizens locally.

Eleven cities from different countries were selected for in-depth analysis. Two criteria were used when selecting the cities: First, to the extent possible, we have chosen eleven citizens in which female employment exceeds the 60% target of the Lisbon agenda. We thus expected that promising practices could be found in cities with high female employment rates. It has not been possible, however, to find a city with female employment rates meeting the Lisbon agenda in all of the participating countries. Second, the welfare regime approach representing different political and cultural traditions has been used in the selection of cities. The city selection looks as follows:
Social Democratic cities: Aalborg (Denmark) and Jyväskylä (Finland)
Liberal regime cities: Leeds (England) and Dublin (Ireland)
Conservative regime cities: Hamburg (Germany) and Nantes (France)
Mediterranean cities: Bologna (Italy) and Terrassa (Spain)
Post-communist regime cities: Tartu (Estonia), Brno (Czech Republic) and Székesfehérvar (Hungary)

The work was organized in four main research stages and eleven work packages:

In Stage 1, the aim was to map how local economic structures condition the integration of women into paid employment. This was done using descriptive statistical methods. First, the degree and structure of women’s local labour market integration was analysed, including an analysis of women’s formal and informal work patterns: women’s employment rates, work hours, qualifications and wages, as well as how women’s labour market integration interact with social class, ethnicity, stages in the life course and motherhood. Second, it was analysed how the local demand for labour structures women’s employment. Thus, the study included an analysis of the character of the local economy, that is, whether the local economy is based on industry, service, agriculture, construction, tourism and so forth, and insights were provided as to which local economic structure is most conducive to women’s labour market integration.

Documentary methods and qualitative interviews were used in Stage 2, as the focus was on how formal institutional and political factors condition female labour market integration. First, the governance and quality of welfare services were analysed. The analysis included an assessment of the extent to which the institutions of relevance for female labour force participation (child care, eldercare, lifelong learning) are horizontally coordinated and designed from the perspective of women’s labour market integration. Second, local policy formation and the behaviour of local political actors have been analysed. Focus was on the autonomy of local policy makers and how the mind sets (preferences, interests, worldviews and cultural orientation) of local policy makers affect policy formation in the local welfare state. One of the objectives was thus to assess the extent to which local and inter-regional differences in values and belief systems among political actors can help explain variations with regard to how local welfare systems act in relation to women’s labour market integration. The analysis also addressed the question as to whether EU strategies have affected local goals and political decision making; have the EU’s employment targets informed local policy makers in their decision making?

In Stage 3, the aim was to obtain an in-depth understanding of the motives guiding women’s decisions to enter the labour market. It has thus been analysed weather cultural orientations, women’s self-images, economic and social life conditions can serve as predictors for how women grasp and make use of welfare provisions and enter the labour market. Two methods have been employed to analyse women’s identities and attitudes towards the labour market. First, a fully comparable representative survey among women aged 25–65 has been conducted in all FLOWS cities; in total, about 8,800 interviews have been carried out. Second, four focus group interviews have been conducted in each city. We have made focus group interviews with women (high and low educations) with care obligations towards (a) children and (b) frail elder relatives.

Stage 4 analyses whether women’s integration into the labour market supports social cohesion, social equality and full citizenship and whether integration or social vulnerability is differentiated by age, level of education and so forth. Stage 4 builds on the data collected in Stages 1–3. Some of the data collected in Stage 1 has been updated in the course of the process.

The work carried out in Stages 1–4 was foreseen in the application. In the course of the negotiation process, however, decision was made to include an NGO engaged in activities towards frail or lonely elderly people in the project. The Danish Red Cross was recruited as a partner, and they interviewed national and local Red Cross organizations in all of the participating countries/cities. Red Cross strategies, policies and practices at the national and local levels were identified. The investigation addressed how the Red Cross was filling gaps in relation to public and private solutions to eldercare challenges and how this gap-filling function relates to women’s employment pattern in different welfare regimes. The Red Cross study will be published as a chapter in the FLOWS book edited by Dagmar Kutsar and Marjo Kuronen.

Across Stages 1–4, all of the partners in the FLOWS project have been engaged in dissemination activities: (1) academic dissemination in the form of publications, the organization of conferences or streams at conferences; (2) policy implementation and policy recommendation in the form of Policy Briefs, national and international conferences; and (3) electronic dissemination in the form of a website containing all of the information from the FLOWS project.

The overall ambition of the FLOWS project has been to advance evidence-based urban policy recommendations for local welfare system improvements based on solid insights as to how institutions, policies, processes and culture influence women’s employment patterns, social cohesion and inequality.

Project Results:
The work in FLOWS was defined in eleven work packages (WPs). The results and achievements from each WP are presented below.

WP1: Degree and structure of women’s labour market integration
Work Package 1 aimed to map the degree and structure of women’s labour market integration in eleven European cities. To this end, national and local statistics have been collected about women’s formal and informal work patterns, including life-course related employment rates and individual characteristics, such as educational achievements, ethnicity, class, marital/family status, motherhood, working hours and wage structures. All of these data have been stored on the intranet in the form of a common data file.

Data have been analysed regarding women’s employment rates, family status and age; working hours, qualification levels and wage structures; women’s unemployment and economic inactivity; gender inequalities in the labour market (by comparing the data on women’s labour market integration with those of men’s labour market integration in the eleven cities), and identifying gender gaps with regard to the relevant indicator; labour market integration of ethnic minorities; development of women’s labour market integration; and a classification of labour markets with regard to both their inclusive capacity vis-à-vis women and their sustainability concerning gender equality.

The labour markets of Aalborg and Hamburg in particular proved to have a relatively strong capacity to integrate women into the labour market. The two cities are marked by high female labour force participation rates and low unemployment rates. Women’s labour force participation is also relatively high in Leeds, Jyväskylä, Tartu and Terrassa. The integrating capacity of these labour markets is lower, however, since they have relatively high female unemployment rates. The capacity to integrate women is relatively low in the labour markets of Brno, Dublin, Nantes and Szekesfehervar, where women’s labour force participation is relatively low and, aside from Szekesfehervar, the female unemployment rates are relatively high.

In WP1, three findings came as a surprise:

First, in most of the cities under study, the employment rate of women with pre-school children aged 3–5 is relatively high and above the average employment rate of women – or at least not substantially below it. That is, the mothers with children aged 3–5 in nearly all of the cities are well integrated into the labour market, often better than the average women, despite marked differences in the quality of child care provided. In general, this insight challenges the predominant assumption that welfare policies, including the provision of day care, trigger women’s employment behaviour.

Second, there are huge variations in the employment rates of mothers with a youngest child aged 0–2 in the FLOWS cities. In nearly all of the cases, the employment rate of these women is below the average for women in total. Differences in the employment rate can (only) to some degree be explained with differences in the provision of public day for children below three, while cultural differences contribute substantially to the explanation.

Third, there are clear deficits concerning the labour market integration among women aged 55–64. In all of the cities included in the study, the employment rate for this group is far lower than the average female employment rate. This is a substantial problem requiring considerable attention in policies towards women’s labour market integration in the EU and in the national welfare states.

WP2: Local production system
The objective of Work Package 2 was to map how the local economy and demand structures frame employment opportunities and the integration of women into the labour market: does it matter whether the local economy is based on industry, service, agriculture, construction or tourism? And what is the role of public sector employment? Thus, the aim was to gain insights as to which types of local economic structure and wage conditions are most conducive to women’s labour market integration. Local, national and international statistics have been compiled for this purpose in a common data file on the intranet.

The main findings are that all of the cities are experiencing general economic growth, and many of them have represented a sort of engine for regional economies. All of the cities have undergone important transformations in the production structure, in particular experiencing a strong shift towards a service-based economy, albeit with two characteristics worth noting. The first is the persistence of an important manufacturing sector in some urban contexts. The second important difference relates to the typology of the service sector characterizing the urban economies. A strong correlation has been found between the women’s employment rate and size of the public service sector.

With few exceptions, the economic growth experienced by FLOWS cities has offered ample opportunities for the development of female employment, which is also associated with extraordinary progress in terms of the female educational attainment levels in all eleven cities.

The differences between cities also have to do with diverse characteristics of female employment. Female self-employment rates are very high in Italy and low in Denmark. The share of fixed-term contracts is very high in Spain and very low in Estonia. The gender segregation in sectors and occupations is very high in Estonia and to a lesser extent in Finland. Although with different intensities, the male- and female-dominated specific subsectors are practically the same in all of the FLOWS cities: construction, manufacturing and transportation for men and education, health care and social work, food services and domestic service for women. The same is true for occupational segregation. Occupations such as armed forces, legislators, senior officials and managers as well as plant and machine operators are often referred to as male-segregated, while women are overrepresented in jobs such as clerks in administrative and secretarial roles, service and shop attendants, market sales workers and personal services. Accordingly, the gender pay gap is pervasive in all of the cities being studied, albeit with various degrees.

WP3: The local welfare system
The objective of Work Package 3 was to analyse 11 local welfare systems, including features such as the local welfare mix, the local governance and partnership structure, and the quality of welfare services, which may promote or inhibit women’s labour force participation. Special attention in this WP was paid to voluntary organizations using Red Cross activities in the area of eldercare as a recurring case. Overall, however, three policy areas were singled out for in-depth analysis, as they are expected to be of special importance for working women: child care, care for the elderly and lifelong learning. The focus was also on the extent to which the different policy areas have been coordinated and designed to meet the needs of working women. All of the data in the form of system descriptions pertaining to WP3 have been stored on the intranet.

Data analysis has shown that many cities have made their own child care policies, which are often more generous than the national average, and that the use of formal services is at a higher level than the national level. The most evident positive examples of local extraordinary service provisions are the two Southern European cities, Bologna in Italy and Terrassa in Spain.

Child care coverage is more prominent for older than for younger children, except in Aalborg in Denmark, where the availability of affordable, high quality public services and the use of them is also at a high level for the youngest age group. In general, however, there is a major gap in public or publicly subsidized affordable services, especially for children around age 1–2. The main problem in the care services for older children is the opening hours of the child care institutions, which do not meet the needs of mothers/parents working full-time. There are also gaps in services in atypical hours.

The findings in relation to eldercare show that (1) local welfare systems with generous public or publicly paid formal care for senior citizens are usually also generous in relation to the support given to family care; (2) the generosity of the local welfare systems differs more or less with the type of welfare regime of the national welfare state to which the city belongs, according to Esping-Andersen’s classical welfare state typology (1990, 2001); and (3) in the majority of cities, the actual provision of care more or less reflects the national care policies. In some cities, however, the elderly do not make the most of the public or publicly paid formal care.

Comparison of the employment-oriented lifelong learning systems in the eleven European cities reveals the complexity of these systems. Educational policies are mainly formulated at the national or regional level, whereas local authorities have very little leeway to formulate educational policies or provide life-long learning to meet the needs of local citizens. Furthermore, the complexity of actors involved in the organization of life-long learning is high. Important actors in this field are national and regional (with some exceptions local) authorities, labour unions, employers’ organizations, educational institutions and/or employment authorities such as employment services.

The lifelong learning systems in all of the cities and countries are divided into sub-systems for different target groups, and different groups of women have different opportunities to pursue training and education. Their labour market status is crucial in this respect. First, there is the education system for the adults who are employed and have previous vocational or academic education. They enjoy decent educational opportunities. Secondly, there is the specific training for unemployed people, often understood as part of activation measures. Thirdly, there are special programmes and projects for the most marginalised or disadvantaged groups of people, which are often organized with funding wholly or partly coming from the European Social Fund. Women are not considered a specific target group, because they generally take part in continued education and training, and the educational level of women in the cities is rather high. The most limited options for education and training are for those women outside of the labour force, such as the full-time carers of children or the elderly. The educational systems offer very little recognition to the care responsibilities of women, especially care responsibilities other than child care.

It became clear in all of the local city reports prepared by the FLOWS partners that the three fields of the local welfare systems are not horizontally integrated nor considered primarily from the perspective of women’s labour market integration or their informal care responsibilities. Among the three policy areas analysed, child care is the one in which deviations from the national average are pronounced, while care systems for older people appear to follow the national policies more firmly, with rather limited local variation from the national system. Employment-oriented lifelong learning systems are the most centralized but also very fragmented systems compared to the care systems, and local authorities only play a minor role in providing education and training and formulating policies in this field.

It is important to (again) consider that welfare policies and actual local service provisions do not determine women’s labour market behaviour, since they act in a complex framework of cultural, institutional, social and economic factors. The local welfare system is only a single variable, albeit important in supporting or limiting women’s labour market integration.

Finally, it is worth noting that the potentials of voluntary organizations in the areas of welfare services do not appear overly promising. Thus, the Red Cross is unable to fully relieve the social suffering among older people in as much as the market, family or state should fail to provide adequate eldercare.

WP4: Local policy formation/local political actors
The primary aim of Work Package 4 has been to analyse the global–local interaction in relation to the formation of local policies supportive of women’s employment. Have the EU employment targets and strategies informed local policy makers? What do the preferences, interests, world views and cultural orientations of local political actors look like? And how have the interests of local actors been translated into local policies? As local political actors have some autonomy in the formulation and implementation of policies, it has also been important to explore the degrees of autonomy local policymakers have vis-à-vis national and international policy directives and the legislation related to welfare provision in the areas of child and eldercare, life-long learning and vocational training impacting women’s labour force participation and social cohesion. The extent to which local policy making corresponds to EU policies has thus been studied, especially with respect to the EU 2020 employment target.

The fieldwork combined desk research, documentary studies as to how legal and institutional factors frame the autonomy of local political actors and local decision making, and qualitative interviews with local policy actors; a total of 112 qualitative interviews with policy actors and informants were carried out. The aim of the qualitative interviews was to identify the mind sets of local policy actors. All of the data are available on the intranet.

Analysis of the data reveals the complexity and diversity of the legal frameworks and vertical governance structures; and, thus, the roles, responsibilities, financial resources and actual opportunities available to the local authorities/cities when formulating their own welfare policies and providing services for their residents. Vertical governance structures can be classified as being either centralized (England, Ireland), multi-level (Italy, Spain, France, Germany) or decentralized (Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic), allowing the local authorities different room for manoeuvring. When examining each welfare sector (child care, elderly care and lifelong learning) separately, however, this classification changes, and both the national regulation and the role of local authorities look different in each specific sector. This probably makes the horizontal coordination of these policy fields more complicated at both the national and local levels.

Analysis of policy processes showed how women‘s employment, informal child and elderly care responsibilities and lifelong learning options have different levels of visibility and importance at the local political level. The political agenda at the local level is to some extent anchored in local social practices, desires and needs. Local political actors, however, may also be influenced by the role and issues addressed by national and (albeit less so) international authorities. In effect, women’s employment may be brought forward as an issue locally if the issue is brought to the surface and addressed by national and (less so) international (EU) organizations.

Different ideas and cultural orientations guide the local policy makers in different countries. The practices vary from the Mediterranean countries being more influenced by tradition and entrenched gender stereotypes to the Scandinavian countries, where very high levels of women’s employment have become a cultural norm. In countries where equal opportunities have become a social norm, women are not expected (by politicians) to be the primary carers of their children or frail family members, whereas eldercare is primarily the family’s responsibility in more traditional policy settings (where women traditionally provide care). Still, the economic downtown in most EU countries has had a marked effect on political priorities. As a general trend, the economic recession has increased the pressure on women to provide informal care as public service budgets have been cut.

Local policy formation focusing on female employment opportunities is generally related to several socio-economic, political and cultural factors. It is noteworthy, however, that the degree of policy centralization can broaden or narrow the sphere of action for local actors. It is also noteworthy that in most cities it is the civil servants (not politicians) who are largely shaping the action – by defining the need for, scope of and means of implementing the policy; they set the general rules and standards which guide the roles of public, private and voluntary service providers. The level of involvement of local politicians is rather low and the provision of care and training are probably the least politicized fields in local politics. In eleven European cities, there are different practices for involving the target groups and general public in the policy process. Scandinavian and West European democracies are more responsive to grassroots influence than the Mediterranean and new democracies in Eastern and Central Europe.

WP5: Survey questionnaire
The primary task in Work Package 5 has been to obtain a clear view of women’s attitudes and behaviours towards the labour market together with the factors conditioning women’s dispositions towards paid employment. A representative and fully comparable survey among women aged 25–65 was conducted in eleven FLOWS cities, and the survey data have been organized in a common data base available on the intranet (to be made publicly available in 2015). A total of 8,800 interviews have been carried out. The data base allows for the in-depth analysis of (1) the extent to which women’s dispositions and preferences determine labour force participation, (2) factors conditioning women’s dispositions and preferences (e.g. family, welfare institutions, perceived opportunities in the labour market), and (3) whether female labour force participation enhances social cohesion.

A number of preliminary analyses of data show that independent variables such as age, level of education, health, ethnicity, family size (and presence of children), political participation, satisfaction with current job, work–life balance problems, perceived gender roles and city of residence all matter for women’s work orientation. As to social cohesion, preliminary analyses show that age, education, health, ethnicity, labour force status (employed or unemployed), structure of household and city of residence all matter for female poverty risk.

Questions related to social cohesion will be analysed in depth in WP7, and four books integrating research results from WPs 1–6 will be published. In addition, a special issue of the Journal of European Societies has been organized to present research results from WP5. The special issue will contain four FLOWS articles based on the survey data: (1) Determinants deciding women’s work-orientation and work practices, (2) The impact of local welfare systems and quality of work on women’s employment, (3) The ‘motherhood penalty’ at the local level: comparing the effect of child care responsibilities on women’s employment in four European cities, and (4) The social impact of gender discrimination on the social vulnerability of women in times of crisis. The four articles will be published in 2015.

WP6: Women’s decision making
Work Package 6 aimed at obtaining insight into the factors motivating women to enter the labour market as well as insight into their decision-making processes: is the decision to enter the labour market a premeditated choice, an escape from poverty or an outcome of autonomy-seeking efforts? Focus group interviews comprised the primary research method. There were two focus groups convened on each topic, one consisting of low educated women and another with higher educated women. In total, four focus group interviews were conducted in each city. The first pair consisted of women with child care obligations, while the second included women caring for an elderly relative. All of the focus groups centred on the motivation to work, access to and uptake of local welfare systems and the role of significant others with respect to the work-family life balance in the reconciliation of women’s work and family lives.

Almost all of the working mothers were highly motivated to work. Work was central to their economic independence, intellectual satisfaction, social integration and self-esteem. They were proud to be working mothers who were able to reconcile the challenges of work and family life, albeit each in their own way. The mothers’ decision making and reconciliation strategies were influenced by the local availability of pre-school services.

In some cities, low income mothers could not afford to pay for child care and constantly had to weigh these costs against their potential income when making decisions about working extra hours. Part-time work was a reconciliation strategy used when mothers could not afford formal child care or when mothers acted on the basis of a cultural value orientation according to which it is good for children to remain home in the afternoon and receive their mother’s care. Mothers without proper full-time, affordable child care spent a lot of time juggling child care with their other responsibilities, often resulting in considerable stress and threatening the social cohesion.

As regards working women with a dependent elderly relative, this study found that women were very attached to their work. Many of them managed to combine work with eldercare, often finding their paid work a welcome relief from the demands of eldercare. Women were motivated by a sense of filial obligation to care for their relatives. Many of the women in the focus groups had seen the gradual and progressive deterioration of some of their elderly relatives over time. Their responses to the latter had to change as their needs became more demanding. When they became unable to care for their elderly family members at home, they had to transfer them to a nursing home. This was sometimes very difficult, as many of the individuals in question were reluctant to go to a nursing home. This placed a great burden on their relatives, as eldercare is tiring and demanding. In a small number of cities, predominant norms were to place frail relatives in a care facility.

A book based on focus group interviews conducted in WP6 is being prepared by Evelyn Mahon.

WP7: Social structures: cohesion or cleavages
The objective of Work Package 7 has been to establish whether female labour force participation fosters social cohesion and full citizenship, including economic, social and political citizenship. Issues relating to the interaction between the quality of work and gender equality have been a central part of WP7. Empirically, WP7 has drawn especially on data collected in WPs 1, 2 and 5.

The major findings are that the levels and forms of women’s employment are largely differentiated in terms of age and level of education, which in turn affects the level of social cohesion in the FLOWS localities. The effects on social cohesion, however, are mediated by the structure of the local welfare state, depending crucially on the generosity and type of welfare benefits and on the opportunities given to mothers to re-conciliate working and caring. Furthermore, it has been found that the demand structure and performance of the local economy in the present crisis are structuring the opportunities and constraints for women’s employment in local societies.

In quantitative terms, women’s employment has increased in recent decades. Unfortunately, however, this has not meant that females have acquired satisfactory jobs in terms of quality, employment protection and career opportunities. Far more women than men are engaged in precarious jobs. ‘Working poor’ has become an issue, especially for females, as women tend to concentrate on the secondary labour markets.

A special journal issue to be edited by coordinator Costanzo Ranci is in the preparatory phase.

WP8: Academic dissemination
As anticipated in Work Package 8, the FLOWS project has been extensively engaged in academic dissemination. Several PhD conferences have been organized. FLOWS work shops have been organized in connection with a long range of international and national social policy conferences. FLOWS partners have published FLOWS data internationally. One e-book has been published on the Internet (see the homepage of FLOWS). One book contract is signed and two others are currently being negotiated. The work on publications in academic journals continues: One special issue of European Societies has been organized by Per Jensen and another is being planned by Constanzo Ranci. Articles have been published by FLOWS partners in a variety of international journals, including European Societies, Journal of Ageing Studies, Ethnologie Francaise, Journal of Social Policy, Relationships and Societies, European Journal of Ageing, Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. In addition, a total of 38 working papers will be published in the FLOWS working paper series, available on the public part of the homepage.

WP9: Policy implementation and policy recommendation
It has been very important for the FLOWS project to communicate the research results to the relevant policy makers. Activities in Work Package 9 have resulted in the organization of an international policy conference to take place in Brussels on 5 June 2014; national policy conferences have been organized in all eleven FLOWS countries, and five policy briefs have been published and disseminated.

WP10: Communication to civil society
Similarly, Work Package 10 has been engaged in communicating with civil society. A website has been established ( which provides all of the relevant information about FLOWS, including publications. Policy briefs and 38 working papers are available on the website.

WP11: Project management
The objective of this work package has been to provide efficient and proactive management and work processes over the course of the entire project period to support the progress of the project.

Potential Impact:
The relevance of the FLOWS project for policy makers and civil society

The FLOWS project has immediate relevance and a potential strategic importance for the EU, its individual member states, local labour markets, firms and individual citizens, as it has provided evidence and means concerning local welfare systems favouring female employment and social cohesion. The policy lessons that can be drawn from the FLOWS project are as follows:

• The structure and level of female employment is primarily demand-side driven. The factors favouring female employment are: economic growth, low levels of unemployment and a large service economy. The service economy should preferably be publicly organized, as the public sector offers reasonable work conditions that are conducive for social cohesion. A correlation exists in the FLOWS cities between female employment levels and the size of the public sector. From a social cohesion perspective, the major problem is that the demand for women is especially high in the secondary labour markets offering precarious types of jobs.

• Some supply-side factors also play a role, primarily age and high quality initial education. Factors such as life-long learning and the provision of child care have been found to play a minor role for women’s employment. There is no correlation between the proportion of women enrolled in life-long learning and the female employment rate, and findings appear to indicate that life-long learning is distributed in accordance with the Matthew effect (accumulated advantage). These findings challenge the idea that social investment strategies will enhance employment growth.

• There is no clear-cut relationship between women’s employment and the provision of child and eldercare (e.g. the employment rate of women with pre-school children is relatively high, even in cities providing low quality day care). Nevertheless, affordable and high quality day care is of utmost importance from a social cohesion perspective. Day care is important for a good work–life balance for working mothers and may help women to choose full-time rather than part-time work.

• Differences among FLOWS cities in female employment rates can largely be ascribed to differences in the employment rate of women aged 55–64, which is generally lower than for younger women. This may be a cohort effect. To increase the female employment rate, it is nonetheless important to pay attention to how the 55–65s can be re-integrated into paid employment and/or how their working lives can be prolonged.

• EU strategies, policies and their implementation are based on a partnership between the Commission and the member states. National member states do not have full authority in areas such as care and life-long learning, however, especially in highly decentralized countries, where local policy makers are often totally unaware of EU policies, including EU employment strategies. In order for EU policies to become effective, new types of vertical governance and dialogue between different policy levels must therefore be established. Local authorities responsible for policy making must be included in the processes.

• At the local level, eldercare, child care and life-long learning are not horizontally integrated nor considered primarily from the perspective of women’s labour market integration. For policies to become more efficient, the policies covering the same territory must be better integrated, which in turn may call for changes in policy responsibilities. The role of local government differs in different welfare state areas; that is, local government does not have the same authority in areas such as child care, eldercare and life-long learning, making it difficult to coordinate these different policy fields horizontally.

• Politicians should bear in mind that there are no easy solutions for achieving high female labour force participation rates and labour force growth as envisaged in the EU 2020 strategy. No single causal factor can be manipulated to do the trick; rather, a multiplicity of factors condition women’s employment. The motivation of women to participate in the labour market is determined by cultural, institutional, social and economic factors.

The relevance of the FLOWS project for the research community

The FLOWS project has contributed substantially to the literature on women, work and the welfare state. The major contributions made by the FLOWS project fall within the following research areas:

• A substantial amount of literature and competing hypotheses as to why women work already exist. In the FLOWS project, however, we have brought research one step farther. Based on extensive empirical analyses, it has been possible to integrate some of the existing hypotheses, just as it has been possible to explain how motives, preferences and the dispositions of women towards the labour market are constructed and why women’s behaviour and actions in relation to the labour market do not always correspond to their motivations.

• The FLOWS project has focused on the municipal level, as municipalities play a major role in policy formation and the implementation of policies. In effect, the welfare regime approach – often used in welfare research – has ‘exploded from within’, so to speak. Thus, local welfare policies differ markedly within nation states, while the similarities in local welfare policies cross-cutting different welfare regimes exist. This calls for new approaches in welfare state research in which the local level is much more systematically included in the analysis.

• The FLOWS project has analysed political processes related to vertical (EU–local) and horizontal governance structures in the welfare policy area. As such, the FLOWS project has produced new insights about the action of political and administrative actors. The project has also shown that local actors (in politics and administration) are important gatekeepers for the development of new welfare policies. These insights help redefine research tasks in relation to old questions, such as who are the main actors in the development of the welfare state and what is their room for manoeuvring.

List of Websites:

Per H. Jensen
Aalborg University
Department of Political Science
Fibigerstræde 1
Room: 94
9220 Aalborg Ø
Phone: +45 9940 8170

Administrative Project Manager
Anne R. Bock
Aalborg University
Fundraising & Project Management Office
Niels Jernes Vej 10
9220 Aalborg Ø
Phone +45 9940 7584

Project website: