Employment, economic activity and gender
As a prelude to our exploration of attitudes, we may note that according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the employment rate among women in the UK and other developed nations remained fairly stable over the past decade until it dropped in almost every OECD country between 2008 and 2009 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2010). In previous recessions, it has been sectors employing more men than women (such as manufacturing and construction) that have been worst affected. However, we know that the current downturn in Britain presents a more complex picture. While employment rates initially fell more rapidly among men than women, men's employment has since showed the stronger signs of recovery (Philpott, 2011). One reason for this appears to be continuing job cuts in the public sector and in part-time jobs, where women predominate.
A longer-term perspective reveals that in previous recessions women were less likely to be economically active and that women's income, on average, made a smaller contribution to overall household finances. The pay gap between men and women in the same household was wider, and there were also fewer lone-parent and other households headed by a female breadwinner (Rake and Rotheroe, 2009). However, Figure 6.1 shows that while there have been signs of recent stabilisation, the level of economic activity among working-age women has progressively increased over the past 40 years, moving ever closer to the declining economic activity levels among working-age men.
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- British Social Attitudes and European Social Survey analysis excludes Northern Ireland, whereas OECD data are based on the whole UK. Various terms are used in this chapter to refer to people in paid work (for example, "workers", "people in paid work", and "employed people"). They all denote everyone who is either an employee or is self-employed, who usually works 10 hours or more a week, and who considers work to be their main activity.
- Part-time work was defined as working less than 35 hours per week.
- Bases for Table 6.5 are as follows:
- The fourth Work-Life Balance Employee Survey was conducted by NatCen Social Research for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
- This includes people who say they "always", "often", "sometimes" or "hardly ever" do this, but excludes those who say they "never" do.
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