Exploring mothers employment patterns in Scotland

The Scottish Government uses Understanding Society for reseach on mothers returning to work and gender roles and attitudes.

Mothers are “significantly more likely than fathers to be out of employment due to caring responsibilities”, according to a new report from the Scottish Government which uses Understanding Society data.

The majority of mothers who have taken maternity leave intend to go back to work, usually before the child is a year old. The most common reason they give for not aiming to go back to work is that they would prefer to look after the child, but the report says “mothers also cite difficulties in finding a job with suitable pay and hours”.

The report was produced as part of the Scottish Government’s Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, and found that mothers who did go back to work were more likely to do so part-time. These patterns are not unusual, but the report found that they were “especially pronounced for mothers in the child poverty priority groups, who were less likely to be employed and more likely to be carrying out family care”.

Gender and Work in Scotland also examined people’s attitudes to gender roles, because the Action Plan “acknowledges that inequalities in the labour market are strongly influenced by societal attitudes”.

Married working mothers were more likely than married working fathers to agree with the statement that “husband and wife should both contribute to household income”. For married mothers who weren’t employed, it was the other way round: they were less likely to agree with the statement than their spouses. Interestingly, younger age groups were no more likely to express progressive attitudes than older cohorts.

Fathers said they spent less time on domestic responsibilities than mothers did, especially in couples in which only the father worked, with mothers “mostly responsible for grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, and childcare”.

The Scottish Government commissioned the research as part of its aim “to continue to reduce the gender pay gap for employees in Scotland by the end of this parliamentary term (May 2021) and to tackle the labour market inequalities faced by women, particularly disabled women, older women, minority ethnic women, women from poorer socio economic backgrounds and women with caring responsibilities.”

Read the full report here.