Women working longer hours since recession

A new study charts how our working hours are changing and how they have stalled – or for women increased – since the 2008 recession.

Women In Engineering


Women are working an hour longer a week than before the financial crisis, according to a new study.

The report, The Times They Aren’t A Changin’ from the Resolution Foundation looks at the long-term fall in working hours over the last century and a half and finds the average working week has halved in length over the past 150 years – from around 64 hours in the 1850s to 32 hours in 2006. However, since the 2008 recession that fall has stalled or increased for women.

The report says the previous fall in hours was linked to rising productivity driving up pay and allowing people to trade in hours of work for more leisure time, an increase in female employment – up from 40 per cent in 1979 to 47 per cent today – and the impact of their – on average – shorter working hours – and more part-time work for men in part due to more female earners. Today, one in seven men work 30 hours per week or less.

The report finds that since the crash the average working week has actually got slightly longer (by 40 mins), particularly for women (+65 mins) and 18-24 year olds (+60 mins) as people struggle to make ends meet.

It also shows that the longest hours are now worked by the highest earners and most qualified, a complete reversal of earlier working patterns when the least-qualified workers and lowest earners worked the longest.

Women’s working week peaks in their mid-20s(at 30.4 hours) before falling and then recovering slightly (to 28.9 hours) in their late 40s. In contrast, men’s hours peak in their mid-30s (at 39.0 hours) and stay at around that level until their 50s, says the report.

It adds that children increase the ‘working week gender gap’. At age 28, mothers are in work for 15 hours less per week, on average, than fathers.

Moreover, London works the longest hours of any region. The capital’s long hours (32.8 a week) are explained by its younger, higher-educated workforce and low rate of part-time work.

The Foundation stresses that the analysis focuses on paid hours of employment by workers, rather than the broader hours of unpaid work taking place in the household, or travel time in between.

George Bangham, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The length of the average paid working week has halved over the past 150 years, as people have traded in rising prosperity for more leisure time.

“In recent decades rising female employment and the linked growth in male part time work have meant that households are sharing paid work more evenly, further driving down the average working week for individuals.

“But falls in the average working week have stalled since the crisis, and working time has been rising for women.

“Solving the UK’s productivity crisis is far more interesting to economists than it is to your average household. But returning to rising productivity would boost workers’ pay packets and potentially reduce the length of their working week, which matters a lot to everyone.”

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