EMPLOYMENT : Labour market boosted by women

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Their rising rate of participation in the labour market means women will account for three-quarters of the increase in the workforce expected between now and 2006. An extra 1.2 million workers will take the total to 29.4 million by then, according to official forecasts published in Labour Market Trends.

As well as becoming more female, with women making up 45.3 per cent of the total, compared with 44 per cent in 1996, the labour force will be older on average. The number of over-35s is expected to rise by 2.3 million, while the number under 35 is expected to fall by 1.1 million.

Even though more young people are expected to remain in full-time education, larger numbers will join the workforce too, because students are increasingly likely to have jobs.

Labour Market Trends, pounds 6, Office for National Statistics. Diane Coyle