The UK's female workforce is at its strongest since 2000, but it's still behind many of its European neighbours

Sarah Spickernell
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Norway consistently came top (Source: Getty)

Women in the UK are faring better in work than at any time since 2000, but they are still outperformed by women in many neighbouring European countries.

According to PwC's Women in Work Index, in 2013 the UK came 14th out of 27 OECD countries with a score of 59.1, which was four places higher than in 2012 and six places higher than in 2011. It was also higher than the OECD average of 59.1.
The index is calculated using a number of different factors, which include number of women in work versus women who are unemployed, the type of contracts they work on and the gender pay gap.
This put it in the same position as it occupied in 2000 – in the interim, it was consistently placed lower in the table. In 2011, its worst year, it even came below the OECD average and fell into 19th place with a score of 56.4. Below is a comparison of the rankings from 2011 and 2013.

The recent improvement in the UK’s score was markedly stronger than the OECD average, and according to PwC this was down to the strengthening economic recovery, which has driven improvements in female labour force participation and a reduction in female unemployment.
But the Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden and Denmark, have continually outperformed the UK by a long way and still occupy the top spots. The reason why the UK is still some way behind is that it falls down in the category of full-time versus part-time employment, according to PwC. In this category alone, the UK comes all the way down in 25th place out of 27.
Yong Jing Teow, economist at PwC, said:
It is encouraging that the UK is making gradual headway and has returned to its position of 2000. The economic recovery has benefited both men and women, but more so for women as indicated by the closing gap between UK male and female labour force participation and the employment rate.
But he added that there has not yet been “meaningful” change in the UK, and that “we need to make sure that the contribution of women in the workplace is fairly recognised and remunerated, and to support women in continuing their careers after having children”.

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