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Mums working part-time struggle to move up ladder

There is a working mum at the helm of internet giant Yahoo and a third of Irish managers are female, but when it comes to participation in the workforce children are still the big driver of who works and how much they work, data from the European statistics agency Eurostat reveals.

Once families have children mothers struggle to retain a foothold in the economy, while men end up working longer hours, the data shows.

Even so, Ireland is ahead of the European curve when it comes to the number of women managers in the workforce.

Just over one in three managers in Irish industry is a woman, higher than the EU average and more than in other advanced northern European economy such as the Netherlands, Denmark or Luxembourg.

Somewhat surprisingly the countries with the highest proportion of women managers are ex-communist Latvia (45pc) and Hungary (41pc). It is high in France, too, at 40pc.

In Cyprus, just 15pc of managers are female, by far the lowest share across the 27 member European Union.

One key reason why men are more likely to become managers is the fact that they are far less likely to work part-time. And the more children a man has the less likely he is to work flexible or part-time hours.


One in 10 childless men works part-time, that is partly explained by age. Younger men are less likely to have either a full-time job, or a child.

But the numbers drop sharply once children arrive, down to 7.9pc for those with one young child and 7.7pc for a father of three children or more.

The numbers are reversed for women. Sixteen percent of childless women work part-time, but more than a quarter of first-time mothers do. By the third child it's closer to half.

Choice may well plan a significant role in those numbers, and famously egalitarian Sweden records almost the same figures.

However, the fact that twice as many mothers of three work part-time than mothers of one suggests that childcare costs rather than a decision to become a full-time stay-at-home mum is the big driver.

For policy makers here the steady whittling down of the numbers of mothers at work is an issue in the context of shortages in key higher skilled sectors.

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That's because women now account for the higher share of graduates but are less likely to be available to work during the course of their career.

Flexible working is seen by many experts as the key to retaining skilled, experienced women in industry.

However, in Ireland and elsewhere, men (35pc) are more likely to work flexible hours than their female counterparts (32.5).

The Irish figures are well above the European average for both, but far lower than in the most dynamic European economies – where flexible hours are now close to he norm for those in full-time jobs.

In Finland, 53pc of women and 59pc of men work flexible hours, its 49pc for men and 47pc for women in Sweden, 44pc each in Denmark and close to that level in Germany.

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