More Scottish mums in work, but barriers persist, says report

children

 

Mothers of young children in Scotland are increasingly likely to be in paid work and to remain in work through the first five years of their child’s life, but barriers persist, particularly for single parents, according to a new report.

The report from the Growing Up in Scotland study, conducted by ScotCen Social Research, compares the patterns of employment of two groups of mothers. The report shows that 62% of women who gave birth in 2010/11 were in work when the child was 10 months old (including those on maternity leave), compared with 58% of women who gave birth in 2004/05.

The report, published by the Scottish Government, shows that the proportion of mothers in work increased as their child got older. Whilst 62% of mothers who had a child in 2010/11 were in work when their child was 10 months old, by the time their child turned five this had risen to 70%.

In 2015, only one in five (21%) mothers of five year olds had not been in paid work since their child was born, compared with one in four (24%) mothers with a five year old in 2009/10.

Despite this, the report found barriers to maternal employment persisted and there was no change in the proportion of mothers who were looking for work.

In both groups of mothers – mothers who had a baby in 2004/05 and mothers who had a baby in 2010/11 – around 6% were looking for paid work when their child was three years old. These figures were similar when the children were babies and when they were five years old.

Mothers who were looking for work tended to be younger and were more likely to be single mothers and living in low income households compared with mothers who were not looking for work.

The report also outlines mothers’ accounts of why they hadn’t been able to find paid work. These include:

  • Lack of suitable jobs: Over half (53%) of mothers who were looking for a job when their child was 10 months old felt that there was a shortage of suitable jobs for them to apply for. This fell to around a quarter (27%) by the time the child was five years old.
  • Childcare: This seemed to be a particular issue for mothers of children approaching school age. 26% of mothers of five year olds who were looking for paid work said this was an issue for them, compared with 14% of mothers with a 10 month old. Of those looking for work, single mothers (19%) were almost twice as likely as those with a partner (10%) to cite childcare as a barrier to finding work when their child was 10 months old.

Line Knudsen, Senior Researcher at ScotCen, said: “A rise in the number of women with young children in work is good news for the Scottish Government who have committed to supporting women to return to work after childbirth.

However, there is no room for complacency, and it’s important to acknowledge that mothers who want to return to work still face barriers to doing so – especially younger mothers, single mothers and those with fewer qualifications.

Any new initiatives to support mothers returning to or entering the workforce need to take account of women’s skill levels and qualifications. They should also try to ensure that familyfriendly working practices, such as being able to work part-time or to work from home without penalties, are accessible at all levels of the labour market. A targeted approach to supporting younger mothers may also be necessary. But what’s likely to be needed is a joined-up approach across a range of policy areas beyond employment, including health, education, housing and welfare.”



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