Rise in working women could boost UK growth, study says

Over 2.4m women currently out-of-work want to work, while 1.3m want to boost their hours, says the report Over 2.4m women currently out-of-work want to work, while 1.3m want to boost their hours, says the report

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Increasing the number of women in the workforce would dramatically boost the UK's economic growth, according to a government-backed report.

If women were represented in the same numbers as men in the workforce, GDP growth would be up to 10% higher by 2030, the study claims.

The study, carried out by the Women's Business Council, estimates 2.4m more women want to work, while 1.3m want to boost their hours.

The government set up the body in 2012.

"There is an overwhelming business case for maximising women's contribution to growth," the Women's Business Council says.

It has identified key life stages including early education, parenthood and middle age when intervention could help to lift the number of working women.

'Raising aspirations'

Key recommendations

  • Girl's subject choices at school leave them under-represented in higher-paying jobs such as science. It suggests regular visits to schools from businesses to provide female role models.
  • Becoming a parent can hamper women's progress. The report suggests flexible working allowing work both outside typical hours and from home.
  • Firms should offer flexible working to older women to allow them to care for ageing parents, as well as children and grandchildren.
  • Women are only half as likely as men to set up and run their own business. It says the government should help to raise awareness of entrepreneurship.

It recommends that before women even enter the workplace, businesses and government need to work with schools to broaden girls' education choices and aspirations.

In addition, it suggests more flexibility for working mothers, promoting the benefits of employing older women and offering better support for female entrepreneurs wanting to start their own businesses.

It calculates that two-thirds of women over the age of 50 work in just three sectors: education, health or retail and recommends retraining to enable them to work in other areas.

"By creating opportunity for all, raising aspirations and enabling people to maximise their talents, we will deliver stronger economic growth," said Ruby McGregor-Smith, chair of the Women's Business Council and chief executive of outsourcing firm MITIE.

Sir Roger Carr, president of the CBI employers group, commenting on the report, said maximising women's contribution to the UK's economy was "vital."

The Women's Business Council will produce a second report next year, looking at the progress that has been made on increasing women in the workplace since its recommendations.

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