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Supporting Women into Work

Volume 553: debated on Thursday 22 November 2012

The Government are taking strong action to support more women into sustainable work. We are delivering the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen, with more than half going to women. More than 200,000 women started an apprenticeship last year. Our tax cuts for 20 million people on the lowest incomes ensure that work always pays, and our radical reforms to parental leave announced last week will allow more women—and men—to balance their work and caring responsibilities.

Is it not particularly important that we help partnered mothers with children into the workplace, particularly considering that in 1985 less than 30% of women with children under three were in the workplace but today it is nearly 60%?

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important that we help working mothers who wish to work to play a full role in the labour market. That is also about ensuring that fathers who want to play a full role in parenting can do so. The ability to share parental leave between mums and dads in the way they choose, rather than how the Government dictate, is an important step towards achieving that goal.

The Minister will be alarmed, as we all are, by the big rise in long-term unemployment among women over 50—up from 50,000 to 62,000 since the election. The Work programme, which is designed to address that, does not seem to be delivering. What more can the Government do?

We are looking into this issue in detail, because we want to ensure that this group of women, as with all unemployed people, are supported. The Work programme provides tailored and targeted support to the individual, which is what is needed, and we will report back to the House about what more can be done.