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The gap in employment rates for women with and without children has narrowed over the last fifteen years, from 5.8 percentage points in 1996 to just 0.8 percentage points in the final quarter of 2010. In this quarter, 66.5 per cent of mothers were in work and 67.3 per cent of women without a dependent child were in work.
The narrowing in employment over the last fifteen years is influenced not only by more mothers choosing to work but also a combination of the following reasons:
Employment rates for mothers peak in the age group 35 to 49 and because of an ageing population, this age group made up a higher percentage of all mothers in the UK in 2010 compared with 1996.
Women have been choosing to have their children later in life and there are also more mothers with pre-school children aged 35 to 49 in 2010 compared to 1996.
Across the age groups for women with pre-school children, employment rates are also highest for those aged 35 to 49. Therefore more mothers in this age group contribute to the overall increase in employment for mothers.
Employment for women without children has fallen since the onset of the recession, driven mainly by a fall in employment for those aged 16 to 24.
Full-time working has driven the increase in the percentage of mothers in work. In 1996, 23.1 per cent of mothers worked full-time, increasing to 29.0 per cent by the final quarter of 2010. Over the period the percentage working part-time has remained stable. However, a higher percentage of mothers work part-time, as they share their time between work and looking after the family. In the final quarter of 2010, 37.4 per cent worked part-time.
Some employers also offer the opportunity to work during term-time only. Almost double the percentage of mothers had this arrangement, at 12.7 per cent, compared with women without children, at 6.7 per cent.
For mothers who are living with a partner there is an increased opportunity to share childcare responsibilities. In the final quarter of 2010, employment rates were higher for these mothers, at 71.8 per cent, than for those not living with a partner, at 55.4 per cent.
As the age of the youngest child in the family increases, so does the opportunity for the mother to be in work and the gap narrows between the employment rates for mothers with a partner, and those without a partner. Where the youngest child is aged 0 to 4, the gap was 27.0 percentage points. It narrowed to 11.3 percentage points where the youngest child is aged 11 to 15, with little gap where the youngest dependent child is aged 16 to 18.
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These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.
1. Mothers are aged 16 to 64 and have at least one dependent child aged 0-18.
2. Women without children are aged 16-64 and do not have any dependent children aged 0-18.
3. Dependent children are all those under 16 and those aged 16-18 who have never married and are in full-time education.
4. Full-time and part-time employment status is self reported.
5. All series are seasonally adjusted independently.