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Having children has a greater impact on women’s likelihood to be in work than their level of education, according to research by the Young Women’s Trust.
The ‘Young, Female and Forgotten?’ study found that 264,000 women aged 16 to 24 in the UK are economically inactive (not working or currently able to look for work) and not in education or training – 37,000 more than men. Most say they want to work, either now or in the long-term, but they are not included in official unemployment statistics and not given the right Government support to prepare for work.
The report reveals that new mothers and those with a dependent child are six times more likely to be economically inactive than those without children. In contrast, having children has no impact on whether or not men are in work.
Even having a university qualification does not protect women from being out of work, says the study. The report finds that women with degrees are as likely to end up economically inactive as men with no qualifications, often due to the impact of having children and a lack of suitable jobs, including on a part-time or flexible basis.
The research, co-funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and carried out with Professor Sue Maguire of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath, also shows that mental ill-health, which affects more women than men, increases the risk of becoming economically inactive – but that there is a lack of support available.
The Young Women’s Trust is calling for the Government to take action including:
– Providing one-to-one personalised support to young women to help them with their next steps, including finding work
– Reducing the time taken to process welfare claims, including Universal Credit
– Including investment in jobs and skills for young women in the Industrial Strategy, including flexible working hours, better pay and flexible childcare to help women become economically active
– Extending the 30 hours of free childcare to people on zero hours contracts, apprentices and students
– Replacing European Social Fund provision that currently supports local employment initiatives
Professor Sue Maguire said: “This in-depth research shines a light on the lives of young women who are defined as NEET (not in education, employment or training) and economically inactive. Through their own words and experiences it offers a damning critique of a system which appears to view them as a problem rather than recognising their resilience and abilities.
Despite most young women possessing decent qualifications and having future aspirations for obtaining jobs, too often they are locked into long-term economic and social disengagement because of their caring responsibilities and/or ill health. They lack the external support that meets their needs and are simply written off. Mental health issues loom large among this group, together with a lack of money and financial independence. Youth poverty is particularly prevalent among young mothers and those living alone.
Government must act to address the needs of this neglected group of young people – first and foremost by the creation of accessible, flexible and high-quality training and work opportunities in their localities, together with personalised support and mentorship provided by services which are targeted at meeting young people’s needs.”