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Working mothers - new reports

Last week saw the IPPR publish two research reports which may be of interest to PACEY members. A brief summary of each is below. You can join the conversation about these reports and your take on them at PACEY Local.

IPPR (2013) Who’s breadwinning? Working mothers and the new face of family support

The report shows that one in three working mums are family breadwinners, with maternal breadwinning the highest since records began.

There are now more than 2 million working mums who are the main family earner, a rise of over 80% in the last 15 years.

The report shows that maternal breadwinning has increased for all family types, for all age groups and across all income groups, over the last 15 years:

  • mothers in couples breadwinning has increased from 18% to 31%
  • co-habiting mothers breadwinning has doubled
  • the employment rate of lone mothers has increased from 43% to 58%
  • maternal breadwinning among 16-26 year-olds has increased from 11% to 18%
  • more than a third of mothers with a degree-level qualification are breadwinning, an increase from 29%
  • a quarter of mothers without degrees are now breadwinning, compared to less than 20%

The research shows that it can no longer be assumed that the dad is the primary breadwinner in a couple family. As women’s employment outside the home rises, dual earner couples are more common. Most families need two earners simply to make ends meet, and increasingly women’s earnings are a necessity. A rise in the employment rate of lone parents means that mothers in this position provide the sole income for their family.

But despite more mothers than ever before now being the primary breadwinner for their families, many mums still face significant barriers to entering and remaining in work. These include a lack of flexible work opportunities, the high cost of childcare, parental leave entitlement focused on mothers and a lack of relationship support. Although these challenges affect working dads, they have a disproportionate affect on working mums, who are often still the primary carers. Together with the gender pay gap, and in particular the motherhood pay penalty that takes hold when women have children, these barriers undermine the livelihood of many families.

Download the full report.

IPPR (2013) Early developments: Bridging the gap between evidence and policy in early-years education

This report, part of IPPR’s ‘Childcare: A strategic national priority?’ project, reviews the evidence of both the benefits of quality childcare, and the policies which have been successful in improving standards in the UK and abroad. From this body of knowledge it draws 10 lessons for UK policymakers on how our care system can be improved, providing answers to vital questions such as:

  • Which aspects of early years education and care provision should be prioritised, protected and reformed for different preschool age groups which have very different developmental needs.
  • How graduates can improve the quality of provision and outcomes for children, and how the qualification levels of all early years professionals can be lifted.
  • Where the priority areas are for any additional funding: for example, greater access to high-quality care for children from an early age is more important than extending the hours that older preschool children spend in early learning.
  • Why Ofsted may not always be an accurate judge or effective driver of quality in the early years.
  • What kind of provision has the greatest positive impact on child development.

It also sets out some concrete measures which are easily implementable in the short term, but which could be of great benefit to the next generation of children throughout their lives. Government policy for early years education and care should:

  • prioritise qualifications and ratios to meet age-related developmental priorities
  • use funding mechanisms to boost uptake by the most disadvantaged children in high-quality care settings
  • ensure monitoring and assessment reflects best developmental practice
  • build the professional infrastructure, and accountability and support structures, that is necessary to drive quality.

Download the full report.