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Workforce High with Women in Work

The October Reserve Bank Bulletin feature article shows the high workforce participation rates escalating from 62% at the start of the 1980's to 69% recently. Whilst driven by a modest increase for men, the big effect has been women where participation rates have increased by from 10 to 15% in the 25-35 and 45-55 age bands.

Much of this has been due to "baby boomer" women who earned "equal" pay in the 1970's and built family lifestyles which required two incomes or returned to the workforce after child rearing. High divorce rates have also necessitated greater participation at these ages than previous generations.

As to the future, low fertility rates raise concern at the size of future workforce age populations in advanced western economies. Participation rates may continue to be high but the absolute number of workers may not be adequate to sustain a vibrant growing economy.

Posted Thursday, 17 October 2002


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