Women working more hours since financial crisis, report finds

20 Jan 2020 By Elizabeth Howlett

But experts question whether this marks progress, with female employees still working fewer hours for lower pay than men

The length of women’s working weeks has increased at a faster rate than men’s in the past decade since the financial crisis, caused by a growing number of men in part-time work, a think tank has found.

A report from the Resolution Foundation found that between 2009 and 2019, women’s paid work hours have increased by an hour a week. In comparison, men’s average working week has increased by just over 15 minutes over the same period.

It also found that the proportion of female workers has increased, from 40 per cent of the workforce in 1979 to 47 per cent today. However, overall women still tend to work fewer hours than men, clocking an average of 27.5 and 36.9 hours respectively.

More men are now also taking part-time jobs or reducing their hours as a result of an increase in dual-income households. The report said this allows the main breadwinner – still usually a man – to share the paid workload. One in seven men now work just 30 hours per week.

The average working week has got longer by about 40 minutes over the past decade.

But Jon Boys, labour economist at the CIPD, said it was difficult to know whether or not the change was a positive trend or not, and questioned whether the results gave the full picture of a working hours gender divide. “This idea that houses are splitting the work and men’s hours are getting shorter is interesting [but] I’m not sure that's exactly what is happening,” he said.

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“Can you really claim hours are going down when you are just adding more people to the pool who work [fewer] hours, dragging the average down?” 

Charlotte Woodworth, gender equality director at Business in the Community, said the increase in the number of hours worked by women was likely down to stagnating wages, as families attempt to “shore up their finances”. “As household budgets continue to feel the squeeze, women are picking up the difference,” she said.

But Woodworth added it was important to understand exactly why women’s hours are increasing and how this trend affects the gender pay gap.

“Sadly, women might be working more, but they still tend to earn less hour per hour than men,” she said. “Progress on closing the gap has stalled in recent years and employers should take this as further proof that they need to redouble their efforts to tackle the gap by publishing their gender pay gaps, alongside workable action plans with clear targets.”

The Resolution Foundation report found women’s weekly hours peaked in their mid-20s at 30.4 hours, and then dropped to 28.9 hours in their late 40s. In contrast, men’s hours peaked in their mid 30s at 39 hours, and then stayed consistent until their 50s.

It also found that, at age 28, mothers are in work for 15 hours less per week, on average, than fathers.

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