A new study from the Universities of Bristol and Essex shows around a quarter of women are in full-time work or self employed when their children are very young, compared to 90% of men.
Only 27.8 per cent of women are in full-time work or self-employed three years after childbirth, compared to 90 per cent of new fathers, according to a new study.
The study by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Essex also finds that, while 26 per cent of men have been promoted or moved to a better job in the five years following childbirth, the figure is just 13 per cent for women.
The study examined how childbirth affects employment and career progression. The findings suggest women still suffer economically and often become ‘stuck’ at work as a result of taking on childcare responsibilities, while there’s no impact on fathers.
Using data from Understanding Society – the largest longitudinal household panel study of its kind – researchers observed 2,281 new mothers and 1,687 new fathers over three and five years after a child’s birth, between 2009/10 and 2016/17. Of these, 43 per cent were first-time mothers.
Analysis, captured in a report for the Government Equalities Office, reveals mothers increasingly withdraw from full-time employment over time and the more children a woman has, the lower the likelihood she will work full time.
Other key findings include:
The study also found that prior employment status was is a key predictor of returning to work, particularly full time, which suggests that policy should focus on getting young women into work before childbirth if they are to achieve economic equality in later life.
Of those working full time prior to childbirth, 44 per cent returned and remained in full-time work three years after having a baby, but this falls to 31 per cent after five years.
Of the 30 per cent of new mothers who were not working before birth, fewer than one in four return to work in the subsequent three to five years.
Professor Susan Harkness, from the School of Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, led the research and said: “The results of our study highlight how gendered employment patterns are following childbirth, with men typically remaining in full-time work and women leaving full-time work.
“This loss in work experience, and in particular full-time work experience, is an important part of the explanation for the gender pay gap and suggests women still suffer economically as a result of taking on childcare responsibilities.
“Worryingly, it appears that women who return to employment typically see their chance of moving up the occupational ladder decrease. Women who return to the same employer risk becoming stuck in their job roles with limited career progression.”
The study also found that increased commuting time was strongly linked with career progression: those whose daily commute increased by 10 minutes were four times more likely to climb the ladder.
However, changes in working hours had no effect on career progression over the period of the study.
Co-author Dr Alina Pelikh, from the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, said: “While we’ve only looked at the first five years following a child being born, all these factors suggest that the patterns we’ve observed are unlikely to be reversed as children grow older.
“Thanks to longitudinal data, like Understanding Society, in a few years’ time we’ll be able to check whether our predictions were correct. We still need to better understand the reasons why many women do not return to full-time work and encourage policies that enable women to reconcile work and family life.”
Those working in education are more likely to go back to full-time work, while those in the public sector and working in larger firms are more likely to work either full or part time.
But while those in education or the public sector are more likely to go back to work, they are more likely to become occupationally ‘stuck,’ being less likely to move up or down the occupational ladder in the years after birth.