Letters - Women work harder than ever

Your Leader on pensions (28 June) claims that our working and taxpaying years are diminishing. This is true of men but not of women. In the 1960s it was assumed that mothers would stay out of the labour market for on average 15 years. Today most new mothers don't even take a break of 15 months.

Full-time jobs are increasing, whereas until the early 1990s part-time jobs accounted for the growth in women's employment. The leader describes the third of men and women in their fifties who are not employed as a "burden". Yet 5.2 million people - half of them aged between 45 and 64 - provide care of adults which is valued at £14bn a year. One in five of those in their fifties are informal carers and a quarter of them (half a million) provide at least 50 hours' care a week. And more than a third of employed mothers rely on the informal childcare provided by relatives - mainly grandmothers.

Hilary Land
Professor of family policy
University of Bristol

This article first appeared in the 12 July 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Palestine - Who are the Palestinians?