UK mums and dads are worst in developed world at sharing childcare

12 June 2016


The Fatherhood Institute’s Fairness in Families Index 2016

This Father’s Day (19 June), British men will spend 24 minutes caring for children, for every hour done by women. This makes UK parents officially the worst in the developed world at sharing their childcare responsibilities, according to the Fatherhood Institute’s Fairness In Families Index (FIFI), published today.

Overall, the UK comes 12th out of 22 countries in the FIFI, which brings together a basket of measures to compare countries’ progress towards the goal of gender equality; it has dropped three places since 2010. The top five countries in the 2016 index are all Scandinavian, with Sweden taking the top spot. Other countries more gender-equal than the UK include France, Italy and New Zealand.

On the indicator which compares the amount of childcare done by men and women, Portuguese men do the most: 39 minutes for every hour done by women, compared to 24 minutes per hour in the UK.

Other key findings include:

·      UK men and women are better at sharing housework than childcare: British men do 34 minutes of housework and cooking for every hour done by women, placing us 5th in the table (the UK was 5th out of 15 countries for this indicator). In Denmark, which leads on this indicator, men do 44 minutes for every hour done by women.

·      Our parenting leave system is still only the 11th most equal (out of 21 countries for this indicator), despite the introduction of shared parental leave in April 2015. Iceland is believed to have the most gender-equal parenting leave system.

·      Our gender pay gap – which leaves British women earning an average of 17.4% less than men in similar full-time jobs – places us 15th out of the 22 countries measured. In 1st-placed New Zealand, the gap is 5.6%.

·      Relatively few men in the UK work part-time. They make up only 25.8% of the part-time workforce, leaving the UK 16th out of 21 countries measured for this indicator. Here Portugal tops the table again, with men making up 42.1% of the part-time workforce. Part-time working is strongly associated with undertaking caring responsibilities at home.

Why is there such a gulf between British men’s and women’s caring work? Choices about who does what when children are born are not made in a vacuum. Our analysis is that UK dads and mums are held back from enjoying greater gender equality not by men’s lack of interest in looking after children, but rather by three key factors: our gender pay gap, our highly unequal parenting leave system, and our mother-centric family services.

We have identified three key policy changes the UK government could make to hasten progress towards gender equality:

1.    Redesign parenting leave, moving towards a Scandinavian-style system including a substantial period of well-paid, ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ leave for fathers

2.    Strengthen efforts to reduce the gender pay gap

3.    Require early years, schools, social work and maternity services to publish data on their engagement with fathers; and be inspected on this by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

Fatherhood Institute chair Will McDonald said: “It’s clear that today’s fathers want to play a substantial role in caring for their young children – and mothers want more sharing too. Having dads more involved brings benefits for the children, the mothers, the couple and society.

“What our analysis shows is that compared to other countries, the UK has failed to create the structures to support families to achieve the greater sharing that they want, and that is so important for our children’s futures. This needs to change, or we will continue to fall behind.”

Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, said: “The findings of the Fairness in Families Index are worrying. Businesses cannot afford to ignore the parenting revolution that millennials want to see and the PM won’t succeed in his vision of eliminating the gender pay gap unless we see a more equal sharing of parental duties as the new norm.

“Time out of the labour market to look after young children sets back women’s earning power. This Government’s done more than any other to help provide the framework: the right for everyone to request flexible working and the introduction of shared parental leave but what we haven’t seen is a shift in workplace attitudes. So now men are encountering the same prejudice many women face when they take up their new right to shared parental leave.

“The best employers know they need to support fathers as well as mothers to get the best out of their workforce. Until fathers can take up more parental responsibility, particularly when their children are very young, we won’t see a reduction in the gender pay gap.”

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: “WE are shocked but not surprised by these findings. The Fatherhood Institute’s research clearly shows that UK dads and mums are held back from equal parenting by the gender pay gap and a deeply uneven parental leave system. It simply does not make financial sense for many dads to prioritise parenting over work, and this harms everyone. WE are the only party making these issues a political priority.”

For a summary of country rankings and more about our policy proposals, download our Fairness In Families Index 2016 In Brief. You can view the key points from FIFI in the infographic below, or view it online here. You can download the full report here: FINALFatherhood Institute Capstone FiFI 2016.

The Fairness In Families Index is copyright Fatherhood Institute, but do please share it widely. Please use the hashtag #fairnessinfamilies if sharing on social media.