30% of women are main bread-winners
More than two million working mothers are their family's main bread-winner, according to a report released today.
The figure - which includes women who earn more than their partners as well as single mothers - is 80% up over the last 15 years and means that one in three working mothers are the main source of their family's income, said the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank.
The report came ahead of tomorrow's launch of a consultation on Government plans to help working parents with childcare, designed to make it easier for mothers to go out and work.
The scheme, unveiled in Chancellor George Osborne's Budget in March, would offer up to £1,200 a year per child to couples where both parents work. Around 2.5 million households are expected to receive childcare vouchers, which will be available to anyone earning under £150,000 - so couples with a combined income of £300,000 could benefit.
Today's report warned that the cost of childcare remains a "significant barrier" to women working. It recommended changes to the parental leave system to allow more flexibility on how time off after a baby's birth is shared between mothers and fathers.
The IPPR found that maternal bread-winning has increased for all family types, for all age groups and across all income groups, over the last 15 years, with the proportion of mothers earning more than their partners increasing from 18% to 31%.
More than a third of mothers with university-level qualifications and a quarter of those without degrees are now their family's main earner. And the employment rate among lone mothers has increased from 43% to 58%.
The report found the highest levels of female bread-winners in Scotland (32%), Wales (31%) and the North of England (31%), compared to 26% in the East of England and South West and 27% in London and the South East. Its authors argue that this is because the decline of manufacturing industry in the regions has led to more men being out of work.
IPPR associate director Dalia Ben-Galim said: "The balance between bread-winning and caring has changed; it can no longer be assumed that the dad is the primary bread-winner 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 bread-winner 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 and parental leave entitlement focused on mothers."
The IPPR called for universal childcare to help mothers and families, arguing that it could pay a net return to the exchequer because more women would pay tax as a result. For mothers returning full-time, the additional income to the exchequer could be as much as £20,050 over four years, and for those returning part-time £4,860, the report said.
Belfast Telegraph Digital