Women’s participation in the labour market in the Netherlands has always been low. But in the 1970s and 1980s the percentage of women, especially married women, performing work in the labour market rose. In 1960 25.6 per cent of the relevant female population of 15–65 years of age participated in the labour market, in 1971 the participation rate was 30 per cent, in 1981 38.6 per cent and in 1987 it reached 50 per cent, at least if a person working for pay for at least one hour a week is counted as economically active (van der Wal, 1985, p. 41; Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, 1989, p. 11). At first sight one might suppose the economic independence of Dutch women is growing. This supposition leads many policy makers to assume that no further steps are necessary to advance women’s economic emancipation. But is women’s participation in the labour market a good criterion for measuring their economic inde-pendence? What is the difference between labour market participa-tion and economic independence? Why is economic independence important and what criteria can we use to measure it? First and foremost, how do we define economic independence?
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