By Marcus Leach

The gap in employment rates for women with and without children has narrowed over the last fifteen years, from 5.8 percentage points in 1996 to just 0.8 percentage points in the final quarter of 2010.

In this quarter, 66.5 per cent of mothers were in work and 67.3 per cent of women without a dependent child were in work.

This trend coincides with the recent rise of 'mumpreneurs', such as Karen Hastings, CEO and founder of Cupcake Mum.

The narrowing in employment over the last fifteen years is influenced not only by more mothers choosing to work but also a combination of the following reasons:

- Ageing population - employment rates for mothers peak in the age group 35 to 49 and because of an ageing population, this age group made up a higher percentage of all mothers in the UK in 2010 compared with 1996.

- Older mothers - women have been choosing to have their children later in life and there are also more mothers with pre-school children aged 35 to 49 in 2010 compared to 1996.

- Across the age groups for women with pre-school children, employment rates are also highest for those aged 35 to 49. Therefore more mothers in this age group contribute to the overall increase in employment for mothers.

- Recession impact on young women without children - employment for women without children has fallen since the onset of the recession, driven mainly by a fall in employment for those aged 16 to 24.

Full-time working has driven the increase in the percentage of mothers in work. In 1996, 23.1 per cent of mothers worked full-time, increasing to 29.0 per cent by the final quarter of 2010.

Over the period the percentage working part-time has remained stable. However, a higher percentage of mothers work part-time, as they share their time between work and looking after the family. In the final quarter of 2010, 37.4 per cent worked part-time.

As the age of the youngest child in the family increases, so does the opportunity for the mother to be in work and the gap narrows between the employment rates for mothers with a partner, and those without a partner.

Where the youngest child is aged 0 to 4, the gap was 27.0 percentage points. It narrowed to 11.3 percentage points where the youngest child is aged 11 to 15, with little gap where the youngest dependent child is aged 16 to 18.