British women are almost twice as likely to be stay-at-home mums compared to their European counterparts, according to a report from the European Council (EC), and more must be done to encourage them back into employment, it has said.
The percentage of women who are inactive or work part-time due to personal and family responsibilities stood at 12.5 per cent in 2013, almost twice as high as the EU average of 6.3 per cent, the report found.
Despite positive trends in relation to the labour market in the UK, with the employment rate topping 76.5 per cent in 2014, and the latest ONS figures suggesting unemployment down to 5.5 per cent, the EC said “social challenges persist.”
“The United Kingdom is experiencing macroeconomic imbalances which require policy action and monitoring,” the report said.
“The difference in the share of part-time work between women (42.6 per cent in 2013) and men (13.2 per cent in 2013) is one of the highest in the EU…and the proportion of children living in jobless households in the United Kingdom is still one of the highest in the EU.”
The government has pledged to invest £2 million a year more to get more women back into work, including an increase of free childcare in England for 3 and 4-year-olds to 30 hours per week.
However, the EC report said: “Even if supply in the childcare system has increased recently, the availability of affordable, high quality, full-time childcare remains a key issue.”
The report first published in May, forms part of a routine assessment of every European economy and was presented to chancellor George Osborne at a meeting of finance ministers last week.
The recommendations have received backlash from MPs and campaigners who said that the institution had “no right” to “lecture” mothers.
Also highlighted as an area of concern was the UK’s youth unemployment, and the mismatch between education and skills.
“A large proportion of young people have comparatively low levels of basic skills,” it said.
“The implementation of measures to address welfare reform and childcare has been limited.”
It recommended that the UK government address the skills mismatch by increasing employers’ engagement in the delivery of apprenticeships.
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