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Childcare help from relatives makes mothers more likely to work

A new study says women are more likely to go back to work after having a baby if they have access to informal childcare.

A woman and a child (Brian Lawless/PA)
A woman and a child (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Alison Kershaw, PA Education Correspondent

Mothers are more likely to go back to work after having a baby if they have relatives who are willing to look after their child, a study has found.

Around three in four (74%) of women who use “informal childcare”, such as grandparents caring for a youngster, have returned to the workplace or started a job three years after giving birth, it suggests.

In comparison, less than half (47%) of those women who did not have this option available had gone back to work.

“Women who used informal childcare, such as having grandparents care for their child, were much more likely to return to work than those who didn’t have this option,” the study, published by Coram Family and Childcare, concludes.

Too many parents in the UK are frozen out of work by the high cost of childcare, particularly in the first few years when the price is highest and there is no free childcare available Claire Harding

Researchers used data from Understanding Society, a longitudinal study covering 40,000 UK households and figures on childcare costs from Coram Family and Childcare to examine the work choices of women from the year before they had a child up to three years afterwards.

It also found that women who live in the most expensive areas for childcare are less likely to go back than those living in places where care is cheaper.

“Women who lived in the 25% most expensive areas for childcare were less likely to return to work than women who lived in areas where childcare was cheaper,” the study says.

“Areas which have high childcare prices often also have high earnings, but childcare prices still had an effect after this was taken into account for women who returned to work part time.

“Childcare prices seem to be a particular barrier to work for low earning and/or part time working women.”

The study covered women who had at least one baby between 2009 and 2015.

Claire Harding, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “Too many parents in the UK are frozen out of work by the high cost of childcare, particularly in the first few years when the price is highest and there is no free childcare available.

“This means families face a drop in income and parents’ vital skills are lost to employers and the economy.

“Government must act to make sure all parents are better off working after paying for childcare.

“As the research shows, childcare prices particularly disadvantage women who want to work part-time or need to combine work with other caring responsibilities.

“Making childcare affordable and available to all women who want it would improve families’ wellbeing and give all women the option of remaining in the work force.”

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