Thursday, July 3, 2008

MOTHERS IN WORK FORCE DECLINING

Sharon Johnson, WeNews - The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 60 percent of married mothers are now in the work force, 4 percentage points lower than in 1997. The rate of married mothers of infants who work fell 6 percentage points to 53 percent. With mothers representing about two-thirds of adult women those figures help explain why the United States is one of only two industrialized countries--the other is Japan--out of 23 where women's work force participation rate fell between 1994 and 2006, according to data from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Reversal of Trend

From the 1950s through the 1990s the percentage of U.S. women in the paid work force steadily increased. But that trend has begun to reverse and today 3.3 million fewer women are working than would be if the trend had continued.

While a spate of news reports has explained the trend as women preferring to stay home or "opting out," an array of women's policy groups disagree. The real explanation, they contend, is a workplace that fails women on some basic interlocking fronts: inflexible scheduling requirements, job discrimination, lack of child care, lack of parental leave, lack of sick leave.

Researchers for the San Francisco-based Center for WorkLife Law found 13,000 cases of discrimination that showed that mothers were 79 percent less likely to be hired and 100 percent less likely to be promoted because they are held to a higher standard than non-mothers in their companies. . .

The United States, Swaziland, Liberia, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea are the only countries among 173 surveyed in 2007 by the Institute for Health and Social Policy at Montreal's McGill University that don't guarantee paid maternity leave to new mothers.

The Family Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave to new parents or adoptive parents or caregivers of elderly relatives, only applies to firms with 50 workers or more, said Williams. "This disproportionately affects women who earn low wages . . . or work for small companies."

Then there's the cost of child care, which ran between $4,000 and $20,000 a year per child in 2001, according to a study from the Children's Defense Fund in Washington. . .

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