Job gap narrows for mothers, ONS figures show

Woman at boardroom (picture posed by model) Employment rates for mothers peak between the ages of 35 and 49

The difference in employment levels between women with and without children has shrunk to less than one percentage point, official statistics show.

Some 66.5% of mothers were in work in the final three months of 2010, the Office for National Statistics said.

This compared with a 67.3% employment rate for women without a dependent child.

The difference was 5.8 percentage points 15 years ago, but has now narrowed to 0.8 percentage points.

Changing patterns

Key factors influencing the narrowing gap, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), include:

  • Women choosing to have children later in life
  • Employment for women without children, often those aged 16 to 24, being hit by the recession
  • An ageing population pushing more mothers into the key employment age bracket of 35 to 49

The ONS said that a growing percentage of mothers were choosing to work full-time, whereas the number of part-time workers has remained static.

In 1996, 23.1% of mothers worked full-time, compared with 29% at the end of last year.

Some 12.7% of mothers only worked during school term-time, compared with 6.7% of women without children.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "The rising proportion of mothers in work over the last 15 years is a ringing endorsement of family-friendly working practices such as better parental leave and pay, and the right to request flexible working."

He said that government cuts could "turn the clock back".

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