What’s on : Lectures

Women’s employment in Britain over the last fifty years: changes, challenges and unexpected outcomes

9 May 2017
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Dr Judith Glover

Event Information

Women’s employment in Britain over the last fifty years: changes, challenges and unexpected outcomes

by Dr Judith Glover, Emeritus Professor of Employment Studies, University of Roehampton

A major area of interest for sociologists and social policy analysts is the widespread evolution of women’s employment patterns over the last half-century.  Focusing on Britain, I show that women, including many mothers, are now much more likely to be in the labour force than previous generations were.  Several challenges for society and for families follow from this, since women’s availability for childcare and eldercare can no longer be taken for granted. Analysts talk about a ‘care crisis’, exacerbated by the ageing of the population and the reduction of state-funded social care. One perhaps unexpected outcome is that grandparents are increasingly suppliers of childcare.

Is this situation sustainable? Are there any solutions to the ‘time squeeze’ that many women experience? I look to the Nordic model for a different state approach and also to the perspective that the solution lies in the family as well as in the state – and specifically in men adapting their personal and working lives to meet the challenges posed by women’s changing employment patterns.

Member’s report

Dr. Glover explained sociological approaches to collecting evidence of changing patterns and trends in women’s employment, stressing the possibilities of this research supporting social policy interventions. The employment trends over the last 60 years present major challenges.  In 1951 17% of mothers were in employment whereas in 2013 there were 72%, many in part-time work.  Overall employment of women and men has changed; of women of working age (16-64) in 2013, 72% of women and 76% of men were employed, whereas at the start of the 1950’s 35% of women and 92% of men were in employment.

These changes have implications for social policy as the increased need for varied options for childcare coincides with demographic changes, including later childbirth and increasing life expectancy with implications also for elder care.  Comparison was made with Sweden where generous parental leave, high quality subsidized childcare and flexible employment conditions are provided, paid for by higher taxes.  A change in men undertaking voluntary care as husbands, fathers and grandfathers caring for partners, elders or children is underway. Government support is being extended e.g. N.I. credits for grandparents. For human wellbeing this needs to become a virtuous circle of social investment in the care economy.

Catherine Brophy