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(IPP Policy Brief n°38) Sexual division of labour in the French Parliament

IPP Policy Brief n°38

March 2019

Author : Quentin Lippmann

Contact : qlippmann@gmail.com

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logo-pdf-minSexual division of labour in the French Parliament

 

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Summary:

Women are increasingly present in politics. In 2018, they held nearly 39% of the seats in France’s lower house (“l’Assemblée Nationale” or “the National Assembly”) and 32% in its upper house (“le Sénat” or “the Senate”). However, do they do the same work as the men? This policy brief answers that question by studying sexual division of labour in the French Parliament for the period from 2002 to 2017 using an original method consisting in analysing the lexical content of the amendments filed and of the amendments passed.

We show that the topic in which the gender-based differences in parliamentary work are the most marked is very specifically the topic of gender equality. On average, during one term of office, the probability of a female French Member of Parliament (MP) initiating at least one amendment on topics related to gender equality is 75% higher than that of a male French MP doing so. Female French MPs are also 25% more likely to initiate amendments on topics related to childhood and about 10% more likely to do so on topics related to immigration and health. Conversely, male French MPs are, for example, 25% more likely to initiate amendments on topics related to defence. Further statistical analysis shows that these differences cannot be explained by the female and male MPs coming from constituencies that are not comparable and that represent different electors in different parties. This implies that the division of parliamentary work probably results from objectives being intrinsically different between female and male MPs and, also from that fact that women entering politics has led to a change in the topics addressed by the French Parliament. For example, from 2002 to 2017, out of all of the amendments, the proportion of those relating to gender equality increased by nearly 70% in the National Assembly.

Key Points:

  • There is a gender-based division of labour in the parliamentary work done in France’s National Assembly.
  • The probability of a female MP initiating at least one amendment on topics related to gender equality is 75% higher than that of a male MP doing so (40% likelihood for women as against 23% for men). Female MPs are also 25% more likely to initiate at least one amendment on topics related to childhood and about 10% more likely to do so on topics related to immigration and health.
  • The probability of a French male MP initiating at least one amendment on defence-related topics is 25% higher than that of a French female MP doing so.
  • This division would appear to reflect the differences in objectives between female and male parliamentarians. It is not due to the fact that the men and women were elected in different constituencies or in different parties. It is not entirely due to political party strategies either.
  • The increase in the number of women in the French Parliament has been accompanied by a higher prevalence of topics related to gender equality. In the French National Assembly, the prevalence of these subjects among the initiated amendments increased by nearly 70% from 2002 to 2017.