The Influence of Economic Structure and Demand for Labour on Dutch Unmarried Women’s Labour Force Participation during the Long Nineteenth Century

ABSTRACT: Extensive research has demonstrated that female labour force participation (FLFP) in Western Europe decreased during the second half of the nineteenth century. During this period, in the Netherlands, FLFP was even lower than in surrounding countries such as England and Belgium. Until now, most scholars have argued that social norms were driving this development.This study argues that social norms were merely one side of the coin and it demonstrates, on the basis of nearly 2 million marriage records from the period 1812-1929, that sectoral shifts in the Dutch economy explain almost half of the decline of FLFP over the entire period. We exploit regional variation to demonstrate the importance of considering local labour markets when investigating FLFP.

AUTHORS: Corinne Boter, Pieter Woltjer