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International Women’s Day: more women on the labour market

08 March 2023 Annelies Bries Employers

Women are performing more working hours and are less and less opting to take any kind of career break. Nevertheless, part-time parental leave continues to be a popular formula. Not only among mothers: fathers are also taking parental leave more often.

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Women’s labour market participation on the rise

Figures from Statbel show that women’s labour market participation has increased in recent decades: from around 50% in the 1990s, to 67% in 2021. As for men, their labour market participation remained stable at around 75%.

The fact that slightly more men are still in work is mostly due to the traditional division of roles within couples: women perform less paid work because they spend more time on housework and raising children than men do. But that ‘gender gap’ is starting to shrink: women are standing their ground in the workplace more.

Better work-life balance

So women these days need to take on fewer caring responsibilities? Certainly not: while family care continues, rising longevity and costs of living are forcing both men and women to work full-time.

In addition, structural homeworking is by now well established, making the work-life puzzle easier to put together. Before the pandemic, it was almost impossible for parents to be at the school gate before dark. And they were unable to attend the office on Wednesday afternoons because they had to stay home for the children.


Thanks to hybrid working, care tasks can be more smoothly interspersed with to-dos from work. Meaning we’re work more, as well as longer. This is good for employers: they can aim to maximise their workforce’s usability, rather than immediately having to look for additional workers.

Less need for a career break

These developments also partly explain the declining trend in the proportion of workers taking career breaks. At present, just over 6% of employees take some form of career break. This is 5% less compared to 2021, and the lowest level in four years.

The proportion of men taking career breaks remains stable, at 5.1%. Among women, the share was down 7% in 2022 compared to 2021: from 8.1% to 7.5%.

Fathers more likely to take part-time parental leave

Although part-time time credit reaches the most employees with a share of 3.4%, here too we observe a 10% decrease. One form of career break gained in popularity: part-time parental leave (+3.4%).

Those who work and have children can choose between parental leave full-time, half-time, 1/5th (1 day a week), or 1/10th (half a day a week or 1 day every 2 weeks). Most frequently, employees choose to work 4/5th. In 2022, nearly 70% of parents taking parental leave opted for the 1/5th formula.

Interestingly, 1/10th parental leave – only existing since 2019 – is gaining popularity. Also among fathers: three in ten opted for this variant in 2022. Overall, 1.6% of male employees took parental leave, accounting for a 21% increase from 2020.

Vaders nemen vaker deeltijds ouderschapsverlof

All about parental leave and time credit

What about career breaks, time credit and parental leave? Contact the experts at Acerta.

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Written by Annelies Bries

Legal advisor at Acerta

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