Growing up in Scotland

Research highlights barriers mothers face to paid work.

The number of mums in work while their children were aged five and under, increased over a six-year period, new research has found. 

The Growing Up in Scotland national study surveyed two groups of mothers who had children in 2004/05 and in 2010/11, with research conducted when children were 10 months, three years and five years old. More than 11,000 mothers were interviewed at least once as part of this study.

The report’s findings include:

  • Overall 53% of mothers with children born in 2010/11 were in work at all child age points covered by the survey – which is equivalent to more than 30,000 mums in work.  This compared to 48% of mothers with a child born in 2004/05
  • Mothers looking for work were more likely to be younger, single parents and to live in lower income households
  • The proportion of mums of five-year-olds in paid work in 2015 was 70%, up from 65% six years earlier – an increase equivalent to nearly 3,000 more mothers in work.

Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn said:

“This study shows that over a six year period the number of mums returning to work after having a child increased.

“Clearly there is still more that we can do to ensure no-one is forced to choose between their career or their family responsibilities, and that those looking for work can find work.

“That is why we have committed to implementing pilot schemes to reduce the burden of upfront childcare costs and we will almost double free early learning and childcare.

“Our pregnancy and maternity discrimination working group will continue to look at how we can remove any barriers to work, promote the benefits of flexible working and provide information on employment rights to pregnant workers.”

Nikki Slowey, job share programme director, Family Friendly Working Scotland said:

“While the GUS research indicates overall maternal employment rates in Scotland are improving, it also highlights that significant barriers still exist for mothers – primarily a lack of flexible jobs and issues around arranging suitable childcare.

“Flexibility at work is a key part of the solution. Greater flexibility, such as reduced or adjusted working hours, job share or working from home, would be hugely beneficial not only for mothers but also fathers and indeed anyone seeking to address a good work life balance.

“The more we can normalise and mainstream flexibility the more mothers we will see entering the labour market and progressing in their careers.”


The Growing up in Scotland report is available. The research also shows:

  • In 2011 62% of mothers of 10-month-old children were in paid work, up from 58% of mothers with children this age in 2005/6  - an increase equivalent to nearly 2,500 more mothers in work
  • In 2013 66% of mothers of three-year-old children were in paid work compared to 62% six years earlier – an increase equivalent to nearly 2,500 more mothers in work

The Scottish Government is funding a Returners Programme, part of work to identify and address the issues preventing women re-entering the workforce, particularly rebuilding skills, knowledge and confidence.

Find more information on the Growing up in Scotland website.


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