Women Leading UK Employment Boom

28 February 2018

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Despite the impact of the 2008 financial crisis on employment in the UK, numbers in employment have now soared to new heights. From late 2007 to late 2017, total employment has grown by over 2.5 million, making the UK an outstanding performer internationally in those terms. What has not be widely recognised is that female employment accounted for 58% of this employment growth, and three-quarters of the additional hours of work are being worked by women.

This has major implications for the future. Male employment was harder hit by the onset of the crisis, as it has been in previous recessions, with the employment rate for men falling from 79% to 75%, whereas the female employment rate fell only from 67% to 65%. The overall employment rate for men has now recovered to its pre-Crisis level, but the rate for women has reached 71%, an all-time high. This narrowing gender gap in employment rates reflects the combined effect of legislative changes, the impact of the Crisis, and longer-term economic social and cultural dynamics.

The current 16-24 age cohort is the first one in British history where employment differences between genders are no longer visible. Looking ahead, it is reasonable to expect that the gender gap for that age range will not reappear. How the gap evolves as this cohort ages and reaches the family formation and child-rearing stage will be key to labour supply in the future.