By Daniel Hunter

Half of the increase in the number of women working is down to low-paid jobs, according to a study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The TUC said that most part-time jobs were in cleaning, caring or clerical positions, with an average wage of £6.70-£9.34 an hour.

However, half of the growth in full-time female employment was women taking up managerial and professional positions, carrying an average wage of between £17.73 and £18.28 an hour.

Despite the growth in managerial and professional positions, the TUC said the new jobs for women are still too focused on low-paying industries.

The TUC's study found that the most common part-time or self-employed job was in hairdressing, which typically pays below the Living Wage.

The organisation also suggested that although many women choose part-time employment, there has been a strong increase in the number of women who have to take part-time work because they can't find full-time employment. There are 300,000 women in part-time jobs who want to work full-time, the TUC said.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There is a big divide between women working full-time and those working part-time and far too many new jobs are in low-paid sectors.

“A large number of part-time women are moving in to sectors like social care and cleaning where wages are low and contracts are often insecure.

“Unless we create better-paid part-time and flexible work opportunities, far too few women will see any real benefit from the recovery.”

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of jobs website Adzuna, said: “There are over 5.3 million working mothers in the UK, and flexible, part-time positions are exactly what many of them want. They enable women to further their careers whilst spending time with their children — and that is a powerful thing. Allowing a balance between motherhood and having a career increases many women’s happiness, and that is healthy for society. In some countries, the Netherlands for one, part-time work is now the dominant type of labour for women.

“However, the move to lower-paid positions suggests that there aren’t enough flexible positions going at the top end of the career ladder. Many women are paying for flexibility with a large wage cut, and the increase in women’s self-employment shows an undimmed desire to work at a decision-making level. The key to encouraging flexible working lies in the provision of childcare — which must be affordable, in the right place, and available at the right times — and the provision of flexible contracts. We shouldn’t necessarily view part-time jobs in a negative light, rather we should embrace and encourage flexibility in the modern era. And it makes sound economic sense to take advantage of the skills women offer, by offering them flexible positions, rather than forcing them into lower-skilled positions.”