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.




  • Marie says:

    This is sadly the kind of limited version of ‘equality’ (?) which is completely reliant on activity in the paid workforce and level of earnings. As if paid work is more valid than unpaid caregiving work, or as if all families should be ‘the same’. Surely true equality recognises diversity and that people contribute in different ways at different times. True equality would recognise other people’s often complex circumstances and preferences and where’s the mutual respect for different roles whether in unpaid work, caring or paid work. Equality discussions that tackle the growing earnings gap between wealthiest and highest paid and lowest paid, is incredibly important for this debate, but for some reason is not included. Some policymakers and advisers won’t be satisfied until all mothers are out in work at ever-earlier stage, until there’s universal daycare for babies and more men involved in caring so that boxes are ticked. This isn’t the kind of policy priority most people want to debate or even recognise as ‘equality’ – although it’s sold as such. Language can be deceiving at times – this isn’t necessarily equality, rather it’s conformity.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Marie, I think the passion in your response reflects the true intention of this article. Speaking as white male in UK Britain, and father of two, my 70s generation has been left with a legacy from the past centuries of male chauvinism. Fathers are scared stiff to say anything about parenting because the UK legal system is bias towards women and society as a whole has placed fathering a child as secondary to mothering. This article shares a survey to try and get the underlying point across. Fathers are not treated equally. The irony is, if women were treated like men in a divorce court, the press would be up in arms. The passion behind shared parenting has nothing to do with sexism, it is purely about equality and equal rights. Each child should see both parents equally, if that is practically possible of course. In my case I live but 5 mins from an ex wife who divorced me after she ran off with another man. My barrister told me that I would not be treated equally and to not fight any more than I did. So now I only see my daughters at set times. I did not want to break up the family yet my wife was awarded the house and the children. How is that fair? Would women agree to be treated in such a way? The context of this is not aimed at you Marie but society. I do understand your points.

    • Robert Stephenson says:

      An excellent point and from someone who is completing his PhD on Men juggling work, home and care … I co-care 2 sons under 5 … and was a full-time carer for my first family from 1980-85 I applaud your reference to diversity and the problematic of ‘equality’ being subjugated by conformity certainly has reference in my life and the complexity of family dynamics, not just my own, but many of the families I ‘explored’ for my PhD at Queen Mary, University of London [Geography]support this view.

  • Peter says:

    With ‘friends’ like the Fatherhood Institute, I’m inclined to believe fathers don’t really need enemies.

    How is the ‘proportion of women who chose to go into parliament or senior management’ relevant? I assume women don’t chose to do much hard manual labour either, that’s their choice. Why not provide a graph about there not being many women working as bricklayers?

    Men work harder than women, we spend more time commuting and we account for 98% of all workplace deaths and injuries. Perhaps as a result we die younger and experience more sickness and ill-health.

    Our family courts are a well-known bad-joke that destroys father’s lives – helping drive a suicide rate that’s astonishingly high.

    As a father, I can honestly say I hope you don’t produce any more reports like this. Tossers.

  • Rob says:

    This index covers paid and unpaid work so values both. It clearly shows that men are rewarded more than women for paid work and that women do more unpaid caring work than men do. It’s perfectly designed to measure and highlight these uncomfortable facts and too strongly evidenced for us to write this off.

    We live in society which is designed to produce these outcomes but the index shows that if we change the rules we can achieve a much fairer division of labour and rewards. And a much more equal society.

    It’s a great piece of work. We’ll done Fatherhood Institute.

    • Marie says:

      It’s good to include paid and unpaid work but if rules need changing then the main rule to tackle is that of shockingly low pay in certain sectors (whether for men or for women) and ESPECIALLY for caregiving work in childcare/early education or caring for the elderly. Too often this is minimum wage pay which people can no longer survive on. As for UNpaid caring work, the answer is not to rearrange the deck chairs but rather to make sure that no individual or family – male or female – is penalised in tax and allowances for the time they devote to unpaid care for dependents or others who can’t manage to take care of themselves. This means tackling our unfair tax system which conspires against family care and also our allowances system which only recognises care which is contracted out, and ignores family care as if people have no ‘costs’ (when in fact they’ve forfeited an entire salary). Anything else is tinkering at the edges.

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