Comparison of the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (1946 cohort), the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS) and the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) has illustrated the dramatic change in women’s position in the labour market across three generations. At age 26, just under half of women born in 1946 were working, compared to more than three-quarters of women from the 1970 cohort nearly a quarter of a century later. The researchers suggest that the increase in employment rates is due to women of younger generations having children later and being more likely to work when they do.
The average career break for mothers after having their first child fell from six years for the 1946 cohort to two years for the 1958 cohort and one year for the 1970 cohort. Around half of mothers in the Millennium Cohort Study had returned to work by the time their child was 9 months old. These patterns have also been found among women of a broad range of ages in the British Household Panel Study, the precursor of Understanding Society.