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Equal Opportunities

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2008

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent research she has evaluated on the effect of the time spent on domestic tasks on women’s career progression; whether she has received representations on this matter; and if she will make a statement. (181448)

There are a large number of factors that affect the career progression of women, and how much they earn. These include differences in men and women’s labour market experience (for example as a result of women taking time out to look after children), skills and education, occupational segregation, lack of quality part-time work (especially for women returning from maternity leave), historical culture, gender stereotyping, and pay discrimination.

Research published in 2006 by the Department of Work and Pensions1 tends to support the theory that gender differences in the labour market stem from the division of parental duties (including child care) between mothers and fathers in the home. Research published in the British Social Attitudes survey, published on 23 January 2008, suggests that only one in six men now believe that a woman’s place is in the home, compared with one in three in 1989. However the same survey found that 77 per cent. of people with partners say that the woman usually or always does the laundry, a similar proportion to that found in 1994 (81 per cent.). The British Social Attitudes Survey also found that the most liberal division of labour between women and men is found among couples where the woman works full-time, earns more than her partner, or has a partner who does not work.

The Government are working to enable families to have real choices about how they live their lives, including how they balance responsibilities at home and at work. The Government is committed to reducing the inequalities that still exist at home and in the workplace, including reducing the gender pay gap, through the introduction of practical measures across a wide front, for example the encouragement of flexible and good quality part-time working, improved maternity and paternity leave, better access to child care, and introduction of the minimum wage.

1 “Newborns and new schools: critical times in women’s employment”, DWP 2006