Bye bye baby: cash-strapped mums take part-time jobs

The ONS says mothers are returning to work in their droves. We're not sure if it's all bad, though.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 17 Nov 2010
An interesting twist to yesterday’s unemployment figures: apparently, the number of stay-at-home mums who have taken on a part-time job has increased. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of full-time mothers has dropped to just 2.07m – the lowest figure since records began in 1994. It’s perhaps no surprise, given that many of those who have lost their jobs in the recession are presumably the husbands/partners of the aforementioned stay-at-home mums. That said, while it may not be ideal for some of the mothers concerned, having more women in the workforce may turn out to be a good thing for all concerned...

One of the main reasons women give for returning to work is financial constraints – particularly mortgage payments. In a survey by uSwitch.com, more than 50% of mothers whose children were under the age of three said they had gone back to work because of the pressure mounting up from debts. And with child benefit payments due to be scrapped in 2013 for higher-rate tax payers, which could mean a loss of £1,752 a year for a couple with two children, having two earners in the family might become a lot more necessary.

Of course, there is a flipside to all this: although the number of part-time jobs have increased by 456,000, according to those ONS figures, the number of full-time jobs has dropped by 727,000 - suggesting that employers are to some extent replacing the latter with the former. So although it might be good for mums that part-time jobs are on the rise, it's less good news for their partners if they're looking for a full-time position.

But it's not all bad news - at least the latter will be able to spend more quality time with the offspring. A survey by Grazia earlier this year showed that these days, men are taking more responsibility for childcare, with 40% saying they take on an equal share of the childcare duties. And although the next generation of children may end up seeing slightly less of their mothers than the previous generation, having more women in the workplace should help to address the gender pay gap and boost diversity in the upper echelons of UK plc. Both of which are good things, we'd argue. Besides, it's not fair to keep those dirty nappies all to yourself.

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