Rate of working mothers up 50% in four decades

The proportion of UK mothers of working age in employment has risen by almost 50% since the 1970s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

As reported by BBC News, a report from the IFS found that there has been a “huge change in working patterns” in the last four decades. Women are now much more likely to continue in paid employment after having children.

Researchers said that employment levels among partners of high-earning men has been most pronounced. In 1975, only 50% of mothers aged 25-54 were in paid work. In 2015, the figure was 72%.

Maternal employment has increased the most among women with children of pre-school or primary-school age, and among single mothers. Researchers said that the trend to have children later and opting for cohabitation rather than marriage has contributed to the change.

Three quarters of all women aged 25-54 are in paid work in the UK, up from 60% in 1977. Growth in female employment has been faster across the UK than in London. In 1975, the capital had the highest proportion of women in employment at 63%. The level is now 74%, joint lowest along with Northern Ireland.

The research comes amid controversy about the gender pay gap in the UK. A BBC analysis of pay information in April 2018 found that 78% of companies pay men more than women.

Barra Roantree, a research economist at the IFS, said: “Employment rates for working-age women in the UK have increased dramatically over the past four decades, particularly for those with young children.

“With the earnings of women increasingly important for these families, understanding the reasons behind persistent differences in the wages of men and women is all the more important.”