Parental working patterns

There are very stark gender divisions in working patterns with women six times more likely than men to be looking after the home or family.

Women are far more likely than men to work part-time, and this is especially true for women with children. Lone mothers are more likely to be in part-time work than lone fathers. Women are still far more likely than men to be economically inactive because of looking after the home or family.

A recent IPPR report Childmind the gap stressed the importance of maternal employment.  Maternal employment rates are important because in families where mothers work, child poverty is significantly lower.

Increasing maternal employment rates also benefits the public purse. For example (UK figure), increasing overall maternal employment by five percentage points (up to 62%) would be worth around £750m annually in increased tax revenue and reduced benefit spending. Increasing the proportion of mothers who are working full-time rather than part-time by five percentage points (up to 52%) would be worth around £700m a year. (IPPR report Childmind the Gap)

Overall, many women with children say that they do want to work and/or increase their working hours, but parent surveys repeatedly find that the lack of affordable childcare, and/or the lack of flexibility in the work available are significant barriers.

Despite relatively high female employment rates, the UK has comparatively low maternal employment rates compared to other European countries.

Between 2001 and 2011 the number of men staying at home to care for children has risen from 1% to 3% (as a proportion of all parents). Working Families 2014 report, Time, Health and the Family found that 31% of men (and the figure was higher among 25-34 year olds) wanted a better work-life balance and to spend more time with their families. This is important for both men and women, for their relationships and for families. The Children and Families Act UK 2014 will extend flexible working rights and will allow men and women to share parental leave. But more is needed.

The availability of childcare for young children is extended in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.  The planned increase to 600 hours is welcome but it's not enough. Parents need high quality, affordable childcare to be able to work and for many to get out of poverty. We know that early learning and childcare has a major effect in narrowing the gap for Scotland's most disadvantaged children - it is in all our interests to do better.

We welcome Children in Scotland setting up a Commission to see how transformational change in childcare can be brought about.

Business needs to be more supportive of families, and it is in their interests to do so. Parenting across Scotland is working in partnership with Working Families and Fathers Network Scotland on a programme to encourage family friendly working bringing benefits for families and for business.  More information