Women and Employment
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Women and Employment

Changing Lives and New Challenges

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi

How is women’s employment shaped by family and domestic responsibilities? This book, written by leading experts in the field, examines twenty-five years of change in women’s employment and addresses the challenges facing women today.
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Chapter 8: Class Difference in Mothers’ Work Schedules and Assessments of their ‘Work–Life Balance’ in Dual-Earner Couples in Britain

Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Diane Perron, Kevin Ward and Kathryn Ray


8. Class differences in mothers’ work schedules and assessments of their ‘work–life balance’ in dual-earner couples in Britain Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Diane Perrons, Kathryn Ray and Kevin Ward1 INTRODUCTION Since the Women and Employment Survey was conducted in 1980 (Martin and Roberts 1984), mothers’ labour force participation has continued to rise. In 2005, 56 per cent of mothers with a child aged under 5 years were in employment and more than 70 per cent once the youngest child is school age (National Statistics 2006). However, only a minority of mothers resume full-time employment directly after maternity leave (McRae, this volume) and part-time work continues to play a pivotal role in the work histories of mothers. In this chapter we focus on the working-time patterns of mothers’ in dual-earner couples whose children are pre-school or in primary school. Drawing on rich qualitative interviews we analyse mothers’ work schedules and their reflections on their ‘work–life balance’, exploring the lived experience of occupational class differences among mothers in full-time and parttime employment. WORKING-TIME SCHEDULES AND ‘WORK–LIFE BALANCE’ IN BRITAIN While it is common to distinguish between ‘part-timers’ and ‘full-timers’ within these categories there is wide variation in work schedules. This diversity is structured by occupational class and the type of workplace. Fulltimers are more likely to work long hours if they are men, but for both sexes this is most prevalent for managers and professionals, particularly those at senior levels. Overall, long hours are most common...

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