Women and Employment
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Women and Employment

Changing Lives and New Challenges

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi

How is women’s employment shaped by family and domestic responsibilities? This book, written by leading experts in the field, examines twenty-five years of change in women’s employment and addresses the challenges facing women today.
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Chapter 9: Mothers’ Employment, Work–Life Conflict, Careers and Class

Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette


9. Mothers’ employment, work–life conflict, careers and class Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette INTRODUCTION In Britain, women’s employment rates increased rapidly during the 1980s. Although still on an upward trend, the rate slowed somewhat during the 1990s, a decade in which ‘increasing female participation in the labour market was entirely concentrated among women with children’ (Dench et al. 2002: 31). These trends are reflected in the survey data (British Social Attitudes [BSA] data for 1989, 1994, 2002 and 2006) that we draw on in this chapter.1 In 1989, 62 per cent of the mothers interviewed reported that they had stayed at home when their children were under school age, but by 2006, this percentage had fallen to 47.2 However, there are substantial differences by educational background amongst working mothers. Aggregate data shows that among both couple mothers and lone parents educated to degree level, 81per cent are in employment, whereas, of mothers with no qualifications, only 44 per cent of couple-mothers and 29 per cent of lone parents are in employment (Walling 2005). As Rake et al. (2000: ch. 3) have demonstrated, low- and mid-skilled mothers are more likely to reduce their employment than mothers with higher skills, thus the cost of motherhood (in foregone earnings) is greater among these women. Not surprisingly, these differences are reflected in substantial variation by class in the employment patterns of mothers, and professional and managerial mothers are much more likely to be in paid employment than...

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