Work-life balance an irrelevance for low income parents

Nov 05 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Those who can least afford to stop work and take on parenting full time are more likely to opt for this option because of a lack of affordable childcare.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) survey Work, Parenting and Careers 2002, shows that 22 per cent of parents with an annual household income of below £20,000 had given up work completely. Only 10 per cent of parents with an income in households earning above £20,000 gave up their jobs as a result of becoming a parent.

Nearly 60 per cent of higher earning parents - in households earning over £40,000 per year - report that they are working exactly the same number of hours.

This picture is not surprising with the average cost of a nursery place in the UK for a child under two costing over £6,000 per year according to the latest figures from the Daycare Trust (rising to £7,500 in London and the South East).

Dianah Worman, the CIPD's adviser on Diversity says: "The Government faces a number of challenges, including the need to both raise productivity and eradicate child poverty. At the moment it seems that lower income workers are left without much choice - not helpful in the face of the wider social and economic agenda.

"While the government has made some progress, with more subsidised

childcare places and tax credits for those on lower incomes, this is not enough. The reality is that more and more parents cannot afford to pay, leaving women with little choice other than to drop out of the labour market. Childcare provision must be given even greater government priority for the good of the economy and the wider community".

She adds: "We talk about the need to gain a better work life balance. This is still an irrelevance for those on lower incomes."

Survey findings

  • The CIPD and Taylor Nelson Sofres carried out a telephone survey amongst 504 parents in August 2002. The sample included both working parents and those who had stopped work in order to meet family commitments.

  • Results show that the majority of parents (52 per cent) believe that becoming a parent has affected their career.

  • The survey also shows that this belief is particularly likely to be held by women (72 per cent). Other findings reveal that 28 per cent of women have actively downgraded their career since having children, but only 9 per cent of men interviewed have done so.

  • Nearly half of the 503 respondents have changed their job or role since becoming a parent. Women are twice as likely as men to cite family commitments or lack of family friendly policies as a primary reason for the change. Women are also three times more likely to have changed their working patterns than men, with only 20 per cent continuing to work the same hours as previously.

  • The majority of working parents interviewed (54 per cent) do not have a flexible working option (flexi-time, job-sharing, annualised hours etc).

  • 73 per cent of working parents feel that their employer does not offer

    sufficient financial support for working parents. Parents tend to feel that they receive more support and understanding from their direct colleagues than their employers.

  • Childcare cost is an important issue for working parents. Parents give UK childcare an average score of 4 out of 10 for affordability. Only 25 per cent of parents interviewed felt that childcare costs were acceptable.

For a copy of the survey, email [email protected]

For Press enquiries contact Judith Cowan / Nicola Pierce / Gerwyn Davies on 020 8263 3232 / 3840 / 3365, Mobile: 07778 226593