Mothers with young children still face barriers in finding work

More mothers of young children are returning to work. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
More mothers of young children are returning to work. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/TSPL
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The number of mothers with young children who are in work has risen in Scotland over the last decade, a national survey has found.

But researchers warned that mothers who wish to return to the workplace still face significant barriers, including employers unwilling to offer to flexi-time or the option to work from home.

Younger mothers, especially those living alone, are most likely to report issues when trying to find employment.

Despite increases in the proportion of mothers with young children who are in paid work, the research showed no change in the proportion who are looking for work, suggesting that barriers to maternal employment have not eased over time.

The Growing Up in Scotland study surveyed two groups of mothers who had young children in 2004/05 and in 2010/11, with more than 11,000 mums taking part.

The report found that 53 per cent of mothers with children born in 2010/11 were in work at all child age points covered by the survey. This compared to 48 per cent of mothers with a child born in 2004/05.

Mothers looking for work were more likely to be younger, single parents and to live in lower income households

The proportion of mums of five-year-olds in paid work in 2015 was 70 per cent, up from 65 per cent six years earlier.

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Minister for eployability and training Jamie Hepburn said: “Clearly there is still more that we can do to ensure no-one is forced to choose between their career or their family responsibilities, and that those looking for work can find work.

“That is why we have committed to implementing pilot schemes to reduce the burden of upfront childcare costs and we will almost double free early learning and childcare.”

The survey, commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by ScotCen Social Research since 2004, is a large-scale longitudinal research project aimed at tracking the lives of several cohorts of Scottish children from the early years.

Line Knudsen, senior researcher at ScotCen, said: “A rise in the number of women with young children in work is good news for the Scottish Government who have committed to supporting women to return to work after childbirth.

“However, there is no room for complacency, and it’s important to acknowledge that mothers who want to return to work still face barriers to doing so – especially younger mothers, single mothers and those with fewer qualifications.

“Any new initiatives to support mothers returning to or entering the workforce need to take account of women’s skill levels and qualifications. They should also try to ensure that family-friendly working practices, such as being able to work part-time or to work from home without penalties, are accessible at all levels of the labour market. A targeted approach to supporting younger mothers may also be necessary. But what’s likely to be needed is a joined up approach across a range of policy areas beyond employment, including health, education, housing and welfare.”

Responding to the report, Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Access to more flexible wrap-around child care and a recognition that part-time college courses play a vital role in ensuring women re-entering the workforce after having children have the skills they need would be an important start, but there are fundamental problems in the labour market to be addressed.

“Our economy needs to keep up with a changing society, where care will take up more and more of a working person’s time - either for a child or an elderly relative.

“Making the care sector a Scottish Government priority sector for growth and investment is critical. The Scottish Government should also consider how the billions it spends on economic investment through public contracts and taxpayer funded grants could be used to promote flexible working. It should also consider how the culture around part-time work is changed to ensure that such jobs are well paid and not regarded as second class.”