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The link between motherhood, education and career prospects

Research showed from young women out of work, 86% want a job in the future and 29% want to be employed now

A recent study has shown having children, combined with insufficient appropriate employment and mental health conditions can result in young, educated women being out of work. In fact, this can be as likely as young men with no qualifications at all being unemployed.

This research was commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust, co-funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and carried out by Prof Sue Maguire from the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath.

From analysis of the ONS labour force survey from January to March 2016, the Trust found 264,000 women in the 16 to 24 age bracket are considered economically inactive.

This covers those people who are not working, nor in education or training, and there are 37,000 more women than men of the same age in this situation. They are not included in official unemployment figures.

Whilst having children has no impact on whether men are working or not, the research found women with a dependent child were six times more likely to have no job and to be considered economically inactive than women with no children.

The research found a woman’s qualifications has less impact on her career than being a mother does. However, the chances of being economically inactive reduces with a higher education level. An additional factor is poor mental health, which is also more likely to affect women than men.

The research found, of those young women out of work, 86% want a job in the future and 29% want to be employed now.

The researchers conducted interviews with a number of young women and reported on people keen to work who feel caught in a life on benefits. A young mother of 19, Sarah, who had also left care, talked of how horrible she finds it and how she feels she isn’t being given a chance.

Even those who were working speak of being forced out after becoming pregnant, such as Sonia, who is 19 and has 11 GCSEs. She feels like her employer just didn’t care, after initially seeming supportive of Sonia’s situation.

Carole Easton, the chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust charity, feels these young women are forgotten because they aren’t included in the official unemployment figures, so do not benefit from the government focus on reducing these numbers.

She is confident the situation these women find themselves in is not due to a lack of ambition or drive,and feels that it’s vital that support is made available specifically for them – for example, an extension of the 30 hours of free childcare to include students, apprentices and zero hour contract holders.

This important research identifies women requiring support and even some ways they can be helped. The author feels that the system sees these women as a problem and is concerned they could be trapped in their situation because of their parental duties or poor mental health. It is crucial that appropriate support is made available.

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