Working Lives Survey was commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Commission
for Northern Ireland in 1990. The survey was designed to: (1)
identify factors which determine whether or not women participate
in paid work and how the unpaid work undertaken by women in the home
influences their involvement in the labour market; (2) to record the
type of paid work women have done and do, as well as their attitudes
and experiences of employment
women were interviewed who lived in private households and were aged
between 18 and 65. The sample was drawn from the 1990 Register of
Electors using a 2 stage proportionate random sample. The interview
took a semi-structured approach, including some prompt items.
study examined changes in the female labour market over time, and
the reasons why women changed jobs, left or returned to work, using
retrospective longitudinal data. This is subject to the inherent problems
of data collection techniques which rely on memory. Work history information
is recorded in time spans referred to as Periods, each delimited by
a change in employment status.
and Occupation Change: 1940-1990
of women were not in employment. However, 82% of women were economically
active in the first Period after leaving secondary education. 75%
worked full time, and 13% were in education.
main industrial sectors were Other Manufacturing 31% (especially leather,
clothing and footwear), Distribution 24% and Other Services 33%.
in occupational structure reflect the changing industrial structure
in Northern Ireland: 44% of women who started work pre-1949 worked
in Other Manufacturing. This fell to 34% for those starting in the
1960s, and 21% in 1980s. This was mirrored by an increase in the significance
of Other Services, which accounted for 22% of those starting work
pre-1949, and 40% of those starting post-1980.
within the occupational hierarchy reflected 2 extremes, which depended
on qualifications and status of occupation - 58% of Professionals
stayed in their occupational groups, as did 34% caterers and cleaners
(although perhaps not out of choice); in contrast semi-skilled workers
were more likely to move.
within the industrial base showed that women tended to move from Other
Manufacturing and Distribution into Other Services, while those who
started work in Other Services did not tend to move. Only 23% of women
who began work in Retail stayed in retail. Workers within the public
sector were relatively static, e.g. 68% of those in public administration
and 51% in education stayed within their industrial class.
shift from traditional manufacturing to services (and from Distribution
to Other Services) reflects the general trends within Northern Ireland
of work histories refutes the assumption that women are transient
workers: only 29% of women who had ever worked had worked for more
than 3 employers; the average number of years worked per employer
was 3. These figures were related to the age of respondent.
of women had worked for more than 20 years.
of women who had taken a break from work only took 1 or 2 breaks.
o Approximately 40% of women left an employment period to get a better
position, around 20% left involuntarily, 15% left because of pregnancy
and about 8% left voluntarily (e.g. personal reasons or unhappy with
of reasons for leaving Period 1 over time shows that 17% of those
starting work pre-1949 left involuntarily and 26% left because of
marriage, compared to 26% and 3% respectively for those starting work
post-1980. This reflects the changing economic and social climate.
31% of those starting work pre-1949 left for a better position, compared
to 47% of those starting post-1980.
of respondents to this section would have like to be considered for
promotion, although this varied by occupation - 91% of professionals
compared to 45% in catering and cleaning.
of professionals, 45% in clerical and related jobs and only 3% of
caterers and cleaners had previously been promoted. 60% of professionals
and 27% of those in catering and cleaning had the possibility of further
were also variations between those working full-time and part-time
- 48% of women working full-time and 15% of those working part-time
had been previously promoted.
all decades, two thirds of women aged 15-24 were working.
of women aged 25-29 were working in 1959, compared to 60% in 1989.
Figures for women aged 30-34 were 39% in 1959 and 57% in 1989.
'M' profile of women's economic activity rates (fall in proportion
of women aged 25-30 working, followed by slight increase with age
and then retirement) has flattened out due to shifting attitudes and
increased opportunities for part-time employment, as well as the impact
of economic recession.