The rise and rise of women's employment in the UK

Document type
Roantree, Barra; Vira, Kartik
Institute for Fiscal Studies
Date of publication
27 April 2018
IFS Briefing Note; BN234
Employment, Families, Social Policy, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

Download (314KB )

Over the past 40 years, the UK has seen an almost continual rise in the proportion of women in employment. The employment rate among women of ‘prime working age’ (aged 25-54) is up from 57% in 1975 to a record high of 78% in 2017.

This predominantly reflects an increase in full-time employment, from 29% in 1985 (when data on hours of work began) to 44% in 2017.

These aggregate changes are largely the result of a huge change in working patterns at particular points in the life cycle, with far more women in employment over the course of their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s.

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