TRS.20.012 – The Gender Gap in Part-time Work: Towards Sustainable Participation of Women and Men in the Dutch Labor Market

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 041 What is the ''inequality problem''?

Even though the Netherlands score high on many gender equality indicators, on the labor market many forms of gender inequality persist. Dutch women’s relative contribution to the GDP is the lowest of all Western European countries (33% vs. 38% in Western-Europe), which is mainly caused by women’s low number of working hours relative to men (27 hours vs. 37 hours). The Dutch situation can be characterized as a ‘part-time trap’: an equilibrium based on a specific organization of paid and unpaid work between men and women that is sustained by an intricate system of mechanisms operating at different levels. On a societal level, strong gender norms that prescribe women with children to work three days or less, expensive childcare facilities and short (unpaid) parental leave result in women doing the largest share of unpaid work. On a sectorial level, women in the Netherlands are overrepresented in ‘soft’ sectors with a high proportion of part-time contracts (health, education) and underrepresented in ‘hard’ sectors with a high proportion of fulltime contracts (finance, high-tech). Within organizations women are overrepresented in ‘administrative’ positions and underrepresented in management positions. These multilevel dynamics combine to affect the individual level where men and women make gendered career choices that perpetuate gender inequality in terms of income and economic independence. This NWA consortium brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to resolve the gender divide in part-time work by setting up micro-, meso- and macrolevel interventions in co-creation with non-academic partners. Rather than problematizing women’s lower work hours as a threat to Dutch economic growth we question the deeply-rooted ‘ideal worker norm’ of the full-time (male) worker, the hidden risks and unrecognized value of doing unpaid work in systems of law and governance and its consequences for work-life balance choices and financial independence of Dutch women and men.


career choice, economic independence, gender inequality, inclusive labor markets, social norms, work-life balance

Other organisations

Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. B. (Belle) Derks