Women of young kids ‘three times more likely than men not to be in work’

Stressed woman with kids working from home


Women with young children are nearly a third less likely to be in work than men with children of the same age, according to new TUC analysis.

The TUC found that on average just 64% of mothers with children aged 0-4 are in paid employment, compared to 93% of fathers with pre-school age children.

The analysis shows that the age of a woman’s youngest child has a clear influence on whether or not she works. The employment rate for mums increases by 11 percentage points to 75% for women with children at primary school (and by 17 percentage points to 81% for mothers with secondary school age children.

There are also regional differences in maternal employment rates. In London, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside, fewer than six in 10 mothers of pre-school children are in work. In Wales, the South West, East of England and Scotland this rises to nearer to seven in 10, says the TUC.

For dads of pre-school children, employment rates are above 90% throughout the country. The TUC says this suggests that mothers’ work decisions are affected by regional variations in the availability and cost of childcare, transport and housing and access to good quality flexible and part-time jobs.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: It’s worrying that so many women with young children are locked out of work because they have kids. We need to share parenting more equally – else the gender pay gap will take decades to close.

“We also need to do more to support working mums. That means making sure that affordable childcare is available from the end of maternity leave to the start of school.

“And we need employers to help too. We need vastly more good quality part-time and flexible jobs. And employers have to be flexible too – like when kids start school and are on shorter hours for the first few weeks.”


Around 370,000 working mothers have their youngest child starting primary school this September and the transition to school can present new opportunities. But there are challenges for parents of school age children too, says the TUC.

For instance, some may have to change their working hours to fit with the shorter school day, depending on the availability of wrap-around care in their area or whether or not they have support networks that can help with school drop-offs and pick-ups. And many schools have a staggered start to help young children settle into school life, which can mean a couple of weeks at the beginning of the reception year when children may only be doing half days.

With this in mind the TUC is asking employers to:

  • Be supportive of working parents and show some flexibility if needed to help them adapt to different childcare pressures once children start school.
  • Let parents use parental leave as flexibly as possible to help them cover school holidays or temporary changes to school hours.

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