Chapter 5: Policy Development in the UK, 1997–2007
5. Policy development in the UK, 1997–2007 The patterns of development of paid and unpaid work of women and men have been somewhat diﬀerent in the UK from those of most other Western European countries. Women’s employment rates increased rapidly during the 1980s, and had reached the Lisbon target of 60 per cent by the early 1990s, but then slowed. Further increases in women’s employment have been concentrated among mothers with dependent children (Walling, 2005; Simon and Whiting, 2007; Berthoud, 2007). The expansion of women’s paid work in the UK occurred in the absence of statutory programmes to reconcile work and family responsibilities. As in some other continental European countries, notably the Netherlands and Germany, mothers’ employment has tended to be part-time, although in those two countries, particularly the Netherlands, more generous employment conditions have been aﬀorded part-timers. In addition, UK fathers work some of the longest hours in the EU15, longer than German fathers and much longer than Dutch fathers (see Table 2.4). Thus the picture for the UK is very far from one of full individualisation in respect of the labour market or of ‘equal sharing’ of paid or unpaid work between men and women at the household level. Nevertheless, despite long working hours, fathers have contributed increasingly to childcare, something made possible not least by growing ‘ﬂexibility’ and shift work. As ever, it is diﬃcult to know what people ‘want’ or ‘would like’, especially given the entrenched pattern of a one-and-a-half-breadwinner model family...
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