Among full-time employees, women's hourly earnings are only 80 per cent of those of men. Women earn only 73 per cent of men's weekly average earnings - partly because men tend to work longer hours than women.

Age affects the pay gap: at the start of their working lives, women and men in non-manual occupations have broadly similar hourly earnings. But this gap widens at older ages. Men aged 50-59 in full-time non-manual occupations earned on average almost pounds 5.30 an hour more than women in the same category.

In 1979, only 24 per cent of women returned to work after having children. By 1988 this had almost doubled to 45 per cent. By 1996, as many as 67 per cent of women returned to work.

72 per cent of working mothers with children aged 0-4 use informal care, but it is still the mother who provides the majority of childcare (82 per cent for pre-school children, 78 per cent for schoolchildren in term time, 77 per cent for schoolchildren in holidays).

Nine out of 10 lone parents are women. In 1996 lone parents headed around 21 per cent of all families with dependent children in Great Britain - nearly three times as many as in 1971.

In 1996 41 per cent of women were in a personal pension scheme compared with 64 per cent of men. 66 per cent of professional women working full time were members of an occupational scheme compared with 28 per cent of female unskilled manual workers. Figures for male equivalents were 75 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.

In 1996-97 the average independent income received by women in retired couples was around 40 per cent of men's.