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Closing the Gap: UK fathers doing 18% more childcare since pre-pandemic

Closing the Gap – a new Fatherhood Institute analysis of official figures – shows big increases in time spent by working fathers on childcare, housework and home-working since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our analysis, using data from the Office for National Statistics [Note 1] shows that the average daily number of minutes spent on unpaid childcare by working fathers who live with their children full-time [Note 2], increased by 18% from pre- to post- pandemic [Note 3](2014-15 to March 2022).


Conversely, the average daily minutes spent on unpaid childcare by working mothers living with their children full-time [Note 4], decreased by 3% from pre- to post- pandemic.


This means that in March 2022, working fathers were spending 65% of the time working mothers spent on unpaid childcare, compared to 54% in 2014/15.


The story was similar for other unpaid domestic work. The average daily minutes working fathers spent on unpaid domestic work, increased by 14% from pre- to post- pandemic; while working mothers’ decreased by 3%. In March 2022, working fathers were spending 66% of the time working mothers spent on unpaid domestic work, compared to 56% in 2014/15.


Working fathers spent a quarter (25%) more time working for pay than working mothers in March 2022: 5 hours 24 minutes [Note 5] per day compared to 4 hours 4 minutes per day on average. However working mothers’ time spent on paid work rose by 41 minutes (20%) between 2014/15 and March 2022, while working fathers’ time spent on paid work increased by 21 minutes (7%).


The figures show that post- pandemic there has been a disproportionate shift towards working-from-home by fathers compared with mothers – although both now work more from home. In March 2022 working fathers spent more than a third (37% [Note 6]) of their paid work time working from home, compared with just 6% in 2014/15. The equivalent figures for working mothers were 8% pre- pandemic and 27% in March 2022.


The narrowing of the gender gaps between working mothers’ and fathers’ paid and unpaid work time – with fathers now spending two-thirds as much time as mothers on unpaid childcare and domestic work, and mothers spending three-quarters as much time as fathers on paid work – are significant for gender equality.


These new figures add weight to our ongoing call for the Government to develop employment and family policies aimed at extending fathers’ and mothers’ ability to share their earning and caregiving responsibilities more equitably.


Adrienne Burgess, Head of Research and Joint Chief Exec at the Fatherhood Institute, said: “Giving fathers the chance to spend more time at home is absolutely key to achieving more gender-equal sharing of earning and caregiving. Now we need stronger action to make parenting leave and flexible working policies more father-inclusive.”

 
Our policy recommendations
  • A more gender-equitable parenting leave system, including well-paid paternity leave and a period of well-paid, use-it-or-lose-it parental leave for all fathers – including those who are self-employed

  • Flexible working by default as a Day 1 right for all employees, with the onus on employers to advertise flexible options and justify when these are not possible – to fathers as well as mothers

  • Routine and systematic engagement with fathers in the perinatal period by NHS maternity and health visiting services to support their close attachment to, and involvement in caregiving for, their babies; and by other services (including Family Hubs) for families with older children


Read our Closing the Gap report and data tables.


 
Case study: less travel, more twin-time

Michael Ormond, 44, from Derbyshire, is a father of three – a ten-year-old son, and twin daughters whose birth coincided with the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown in England.

Mr Ormond’s job as a science communications manager was already home-based but used to involve frequent overseas travel. The shift towards virtual meetings that occurred during the pandemic has given him much greater flexibility, and allows him to spend more time on hands-on parenting.


“I haven’t been on a plane since the pandemic, and I’m able to be much more present and involved as a father. I’d say my relationship with my children is much stronger because I’m around more, and I’m able to ‘fly solo’ as a dad in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”


This blog was updated on 23 January 2024 to include links to the Closing the Gap report and data tables.

 
Notes

Note 1: Office for National Statistics, July 2022: Families and the Labour Market, UK: 2021, comparing ONS time-use data from 2020 and 2022 with data from the Oxford Centre for Time Use Research (CTUR) for 2014/15. Available online: Families and the labour market, UK – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) and Time Use – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Note 2: Almost all of these fathers will be living in couple households.

Note 3: The term ‘post pandemic’ is used as shorthand for the period when pandemic restrictions had ceased in England in March 2022.

Note 4: Including those in lone parent households.

Note 5:These figures exclude commuting.

Note 6: These figures are based on working-from-home time as a percentage of ALL paid work time excluding commuting. If we include travel, the figures are 31% for fathers (4% in 2014), and 21% for mothers (6% in 2014).

 

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