Britain's toddlers are vacating the nation's nurseries, a report has claimed.
An analysis of the UK nurseries sector conducted by market analyst firm Laing and Buisson (L&B) suggests that changing attitudes of mothers are responsible for the shift.
In January 2007 L&B's research showed that total vacancies reached 160,000, amounting to 22.5 per cent of full capacity. This compares to 13.5 per cent in 2003.
Although the report emphasises the buoyant nature of the nurseries sector it also notes significant downturns in recent years, caused by many mothers reassessing when they have children – and how they care for them.
The research showed that the trend towards having children in later life has slowed, with the proportion of mothers in their 20s growing and those aged under 35 falling.
Meanwhile the report also indicated a fall in the percentage of women with a dependent child aged under five in employment. This rose from 48 per cent in 1991 to 56 per cent in 2001 but has since fallen back to 55 per cent in 2005.
Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy at the CBI, suggested that the liberalisation of the labour market – including the introduction of flexible working hours – had contributed to the trend.
"Employers should claim the credit because they are providing a lot of flexitime, nine-day fortnights and teleworking," Ms Anderson told the Daily Mail.
"There has been a long-term shift towards women having a choice," she added.
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