Twenty years ago, UK firms employed close to two men for every woman. Today, the ratio is nearer one to one, says Schroder Economics. The proportion of women in the workforce, which had been rising steadily, accelerated during the recession as men bore the brunt of job cuts. Now, as the recovery takes hold, there are early signs that female participation will increase further. Between March and September last year, UK firms took on 107,000 more women while male employees fell by 9,000. Underlying these figures is a sharp increase in part-time employment. In aggregate, the economy is substituting part-time workers, who are mostly women, for full-time, male workers. The trend is set to persist. Soon firms will employ more women than men. The shift away from male-dominated, full-time manufacturing jobs will continue. Meanwhile, part-time opportunities are likely to grow as the employers increasingly recognise that relatively low pay rates and NI contributions can often make it cheaper to replace one full-time worker with two part-timers. On the supply side, more women will be encouraged to seek employment in future. Changes in Family Credit, increased reliance on maintenance rather than benefits, and increased nursery-care provision should enable more mothers to seek work.
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