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

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Street harrassment: There are some things only a man can explain

Katy Guest
 

Scottish referendum: To the victor, the carping and the criticism

John Rentoul
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam