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Table 6:1: Percentage of women in different age groups in employment, 1931–61

The overall shift in participation rates throughout the post-war years, however, disguises important differences between women. Women in full-time employment were largely unmarried or childless and there was little significant increase in the proportion of women working on a full-time basis until three decades later. It was not to be until the 1980s that women’s participation on more equal terms with men, at least in terms of time, was to occur. In both 1951 and 1981, for example, only 30% of all adult women worked full-time and they were mainly women without children or women whose children had grown up (Joshi 1989). Even so, wages for women did begin to creep up. Single women working full-time after the war saw a considerable rise in their wages compared with the pre-war years. Fowler (1995) suggests that young women starting work in the 1950s were the beneficiaries of a post-war increase of as much as 400% in young workers’ wages from the inter-war period. But this increase seldom brought with it a concomitant independence for these young women, who continued to hand over their wages, after an allowance for ‘pocket money’, to their mothers (Jephcott 1954). In the rare cases of girls who lived separately from their families, they were still expected to send money home (Kerr 1958).