There are more working mums than ever, but the gender pay gap is still here

Mums are now not only bringing home the bacon (on a budget), but are cooking it, serving it and washing up the plates afterwards

Share
Related Topics

Two weeks have now passed since the royal birth, and it’s fair to say that the Duchess of Cambridge remains the most famous new mum in the country, and most probably the world.

On one hand, Kate will face extreme and unimaginable pressures after the birth of Prince George; she is probably also facing many of the same emotional ups and downs that many new mothers face; but other pressures especially financial are unlikely to be her primary concern. One thing is certain: she will not be relied upon to bring in the income needed to support her new family. She will never be a breadwinner.

Working mums in the UK are breadwinning at a higher rate than ever before and this doesn’t look set to change any time soon. IPPR’s new research shows that 1 in 3 working mothers across the country are now the family breadwinner, which means they earn as much or more than their partner, or are working single mums. That is over two million mums, an enormous rise of over 80 per cent n the last 15 years. This trend is not restricted to one group of mother, but can be seen across all age groups, income groups, and family types.

Yet, despite this, many working mums face challenges that most working dads don’t . There is a ‘motherhood pay penalty’ where mums earn a shocking 26 per cent less than the average father; many mums face a step-back in their careers when they go on maternity leave; and are still expected to play the ‘traditional mum role’ by doing a ‘double shift’ working and a majority of the housework.

Mums are now not only bringing home the bacon (on a budget), but are cooking it, serving it and washing up the plates afterwards.

There are some people who are perhaps struggling to adapt to a different reality. We can no longer assume that dad will be the breadwinner and mum the full time carer. But families have changed and so must the policy landscape.  Working mums must be given choices that will help them break down the barriers to work and better reflect what is now the reality for many families.

One way in which this could be done is through universal and accessible childcare. The cost of childcare is rising rapidly in the UK – at more than double the inflation rate over the past year – and is higher here than in most other OECD countries. With earnings stalling, there is no doubt that many families are under pressure, and the high cost of childcare only intensifies the pay penalty for women. Universal childcare could help working mothers balance work and caring responsibilities.  IPPR analysis shows that it could also produce returns to the exchequer of up to £20,050 over four years, which could be re-invested in delivering more affordable childcare.

Mums often take on part-time roles to allow them to also care for their children, but this can lead to them being unfairly disadvantaged by having to take a pay cut or a step down in their career. What we need in the UK are flexible work opportunities that provide women with more genuine choices with regards to work and care. An example of this can be found in Germany, where parents can decrease their working hours to care for children at a reduced income. When they return to work, they continue to receive a lower income to pay for the difference. In practice, this means that if a parent works part-time for two years, they will receive 75 per cent of their normal income over four years. As well as providing greater flexibility, this also has the benefit of preventing sudden changes in income. The UK should watch and learn.

Another way to better support families is through a more progressive parental leave system. The Icelandic government recently passed legislation to transition to a system of five months maternity leave, five months paternity leave and two months parental leave for parents to decide how to use it by 2016. This is a long way from current provision in the UK.

With more working mums than ever before now responsible for the financial well-being of their families, we need to see more being done to break down the barriers that are still placed in front of them. The gender pay gap needs to be quashed once and for all.  This means thinking creatively and providing working mothers with choices.

Today, the Duke of Cambridge’s two-week paternity leave from the RAF will be up, but he and Kate will not face the precarious balancing act of caring for their child whilst generating enough income that will trouble many parents in the UK.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor