New data shows men’s childcare is up 58% during lockdown

14 June 2020

The COVID-19 lockdown has led to a dramatic 58 per cent increase in unpaid childcare undertaken by men, according to data gathered by the Government’s Office for National Statistics[1].

Men’s childcare, rising since the 1960s, is at its highest since records began and possibly in almost 200 years, since the Industrial Revolution took most men out of the home and entrenched a gendered division of labour.

Men’s working hours have fallen by 11% – a drop of 1 hour and 37 minutes per day including travelling time – on average during lockdown, according to the ONS data. This suggests that men could retain their lockdown level of increased childcare if they gained about half a day through commuting less and working more from home, and if they also cut a couple of hours from their working week [to see our calculations, see our FAQs below].

This Fathers’ Day (Sunday 21 June), the Fatherhood Institute calls on the Government and employers to respond by encouraging more home working and shorter hours for fathers. In countries, such as Iceland, which have taken important steps to develop father-friendly jobs, men provide more childcare. The pay gap between women and men is also much narrower than in Britain.

The ONS survey of 1,300 families shows how lockdown has sharply narrowed the gap between the care that men and women give to their children. In 2015, ONS found that men were spending 39 per cent of the time that women spent on childcare. During lockdown, that figure rose to 64 per cent.

Men are still working substantially longer hours in paid employment than women, finds the ONS survey. Men have been working 36 per cent more than women during lockdown.  However, that figure is down from 50 per cent more paid hours than women in 2015.

The Fatherhood Institute today sets out a 4-point plan for UK Governments and employers to maintain this shift and overcome the well-documented barriers that work normally presents to men who want to care for their children. Pre-lockdown, fathers’ requests for flexible working were refused by employers by almost twice the rate of mothers’ (Olchawski, 2016)[2]. Dads who ask to work part-time are judged by managers as less committed to their jobs than mothers who ask to work part-time (Kelland, 2017)[3]. As a result, fathers are twice as likely as mothers to fear that asking for flexible working will damage their careers (Working Families, 2017)[4].

Adrienne Burgess, Co-Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said: ‘The Government’s figures show that fathers, given shorter hours and more homeworking, dramatically increase their contribution to childcare. It’s time to end workplace discrimination against involved fatherhood so that dads can play their part as they wish to – and will do.’

Mark Gatto, a university researcher who has been primary caregiver for his 15 month old child since lockdown started, said: “As a relatively new father, trying to balance work and childcare has been a steep learning curve, but this time has given me time to bond that I would never have had. Spending extended time with my child has reinforced how much I want to stay fully involved in their life and get the balance right as a family beyond the lockdown.”

The Fatherhood Institute’s 4-point plan is:

  1. Employers should include in all job specifications, details of options for flexibility around hours and home working.
  2. In the workplace, employers should recognise men, as well as women, as parents and reassure them of the value that is placed on that role.
  3. There should be training at all levels of management to address the unconscious bias that managers display against male employees who have needs around care taking.
  4. The Government should reinstate the requirement for companies to report on how they are addressing the gender pay gap and work towards, as in Iceland, financially penalising companies that fail to comply.

The Fatherhood Institute, in partnership with BritainThinks, is currently undertaking the ‘Daddy’s Home’ survey of 2,000 fathers about their experiences during lockdown. The ‘Daddy’s Home’ study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, will be published later in the Summer.

The Fatherhood Institute is a UK charity that researches and advocates for father-inclusive social policy, trains professionals to engage with fathers, and runs innovative programmes that support men as caregivers.

BritainThinks is a leading international insight and strategy consultancy.

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice.

Press release: Embargoed 00.01 Tuesday 16 June 2020

Contact:  Jeremy Davies Tel: 0161 818 9442; Whatsapp: 07803 711692; Email not available please contact: Jack O’Sullivan 07779 655585

[1] ONS (2020). Coronavirus and how people spent their time under lockdown: 28 March to 26 April 2020.  London: Office for National Statistics. Read more

[2] Olchawski, J. (2016). Parents, Work and Care:  striking the balance. London, Fawcett Society. Read more

[3] Kelland, J. (2017). ‘Fatherhood Forfeits’ and ‘Motherhood Penalties’ – an exploration of UK management selection decision making of parent applicants. CIPD Applied Research Conference 2016:  the shifting landscape of work and working lives. London, CIPD. CIPD/ARC/2016/2. Read more

[4] Working Families (2017). The Modern Family Index 2017. London, Working Families. Read more

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