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Decline of the stay at home mother: One woman in ten is a full time mum

Category: Industry News, Women, equality, Movement, working mum

Decline of the stay at home mother: Full time mum

Only one woman in ten now stays at home to raise a family.

Official figures show the proportion of women who are stay-at-home mothers has dropped by more than a third in the past two decades to a historic low.

But there has been no compensating movement towards staying at home among men. Just over one man in 100 brings up his children full-time.

The findings, published in an Office for National Statistics report, come at a time of continuing controversy over the pressure on mothers to go out to work and warnings over the welfare of children.

Specifically, the figures detail those who give their occupation as ‘looking after family or home’. It does not include unemployed women, who are classed as looking for work.

Last year Chancellor George Osborne published plans to encourage up to half a million more women into work by the start of 2016. He said he wanted to ‘support women who want to work’ by increasing access to child care.

But at the time critics warned that the Government risked ‘stigmatising’ stay-at-home mothers. A childcare voucher scheme worth up to £1,200 to parents will go into operation next month.

The report said the number of adult women who are ‘economically inactive’ – in other words they neither work nor want to work – has dropped fast since 1980.

It said: ‘There are many reasons for economic inactivity, such as study, looking after the family or home, sickness or disability, or not needing to work.

‘However the main reason for the decline in female inactivity rates over the longer period has been a decline in the share of women staying out of work to look after the family or home.’

The report said the proportion of women aged between 16 and 64 who are economically inactive because they are looking after the family or the home was 15.9 per cent in the spring of 1993, but fell by last autumn to 10.1 per cent.

The figures showed the share of adult women who were stay-at-home mothers dropped below 15 per cent in 1995 and had reached 13.5 per cent when Tony Blair entered Downing Street in May 1997.

The proportion of women who are stay-at-home mothers briefly dropped below 10 per cent last summer, and stood at 10.1 per cent at the end of 2014, the report said.

By contrast, the proportion of men who choose to become house-husbands has remained low, despite the encouragement of politicians who believe men should take a larger share of childcare duties.

In the spring of 1993 just 0.6 per cent of men were economically inactive because they were looking after family or home. While the proportion doubled over the next two decades, that still meant that just 1.2 per cent spent their days looking after home or children last year.

The march of women into the labour market follows the increasing importance of education and jobs to girls, and the pressure on women to remain in work to pay ever-higher mortgages and keep up with the cost of living.

But critics accuse successive governments of doing nothing to help those who want to bring up their own children since the decision to tax married couples separately in the late 1980s first left stay-at-home mothers without any support in the tax system.

While working mothers have gained heavily from tax credits, increasing maternity leave, and state-subsidised childcare, those who stay at home with their children have no help from the benefits system.

Laura Perrins, of Mothers At Home Matter, said: ‘It is a reflection of Government policy that women have to look for work when many want to look after their children instead.

‘The Government is only interested in income tax revenue. It has no interest in the wishes of mothers or the welfare of their children.’

Research for the Department for Education last year found more than a third of working mothers would like to give up their jobs and stay at home with their children.

More than two out of three women are now in employment – 68.5 per cent in the last three months of last year, according to the ONS. At the beginning of the 1980s the level of working among women was barely over half.

The percentages mean there are now more than 14million women in work, but only two million are full-time mothers or homemakers.

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