There is now just under a one per cent difference between mums who work and women without children who work. That compares with 61 percent for mothers and 67 percent for women with children in 1996, says the ONS.
By the end of last year, 29 percent of mothers worked full time, up from 23 percent in 1996.
Mothers who have partners are more likely to work. Sixty-three percent of mums with children aged four or under worked if they had partners, while only 36 percent of single mothers with small children worked, the ONS says.
The narrowing in employment over the last fifteen years is influenced not only by more mothers choosing to work, says the ONS, but also a combination of an ageing population – 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 choosing to wait to have children and the impact of the recession on young women without children.
Across the age groups for women with pre-school children, employment rates are highest for those aged 35 to 49, says the ONS. “Therefore more mothers in this age group contribute to the overall increase in employment for mothers,” it says.
Commenting on the statistics, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “The rising proportion of mothers in work over the last 15 years is a ringing endorsement of family-friendly working practices such as better parental leave and pay, and the right to request flexible working.
“The expansion of quality, affordable childcare through Sure Start centres, now under threat due to local government cuts, has also helped parents find work.
“It is deeply worrying that the government is about to turn the clock back by abandoning plans to extend family-friendly working, cutting childcare tax credits and forcing hundreds of thousands of women out of work through mass public sector job cuts.”