Gender equality in Switzerland: mothers' employment still not well accepted

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In the 25th issue of the journal Social Change in Switzerland, Christina Bornatici and her two co-authors examine the changing attitudes in Switzerland towards gender equality. Between 2000 and 2017, support for women's paid work has increased, while support for mothers with small children is still low. Of all generations, it is the youngest - the millennials - who display the most traditional attitudes towards gender.

Christina Bornatici (FORS Centre - UNIL), Jacques-Antoine Gauthier and Jean-Marie Le Goff (University of Lausanne) analysed nearly 80,000 responses concerning gender roles from the Swiss Household Panel between 2000 and 2017. While women's and men's attitudes are moving towards greater equality, men continue to have more traditional attitudes. In general, women's employment is better seen than that of mothers of pre-school children. Therefore, employment of women is widely accepted as long as there are no children in the household. However, once they become mothers, women are expected to enter the private sphere of Swiss society.

The three authors show that attitudes change in line with people's life experiences. Women who are new to the labour market thus develop more egalitarian attitudes towards women's work in general and towards mothers in particular. At the same time, the reverse is also observed: women leaving the labour market become more traditional in their gender attitudes.

A compromised future for gender equality?

The authors expected younger generations, socialised in a more egalitarian context, to have less traditional attitudes than older generations. Surprisingly, millennials display more traditional attitudes towards gender roles. They are therefore less supportive of measures to promote gender equality and are less favourable to women's paid work. The more traditional attitudes of young people are questionable as they may imply a growing disinterest in the effective achievement of gender equality in Switzerland.

>> C. Bornatici, J. A. Gauthier & J. M. Le Goff (2021). Les attitudes envers l’égalité des genres en Suisse, 2000-2017. Social Change in Switzerland, N°25,

Contact: Christina Bornatici, FORS, +41 692 38 90,

The series Social Change in Switzerland continuously documents the evolution of the social structure in Switzerland. It is published jointly by the Swiss Competence Centre for Social Sciences FORS, the Centre for Research on Life Courses and Inequalities (Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lausanne) LINES and LIVES - The Swiss Competence Centre for Research on Life Courses and Vulnerabilities. The aim is to trace changes in employment, family, income, mobility, voting or gender in Switzerland. Based on state-of-the-art empirical research, it is aimed at a wider audience than just specialists.