Women’s careers are unduly affected by detrimental demands of caregiving, according to a report published by the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) last month.


The report, entitled What Women Want, explores gender-based inequalities in the workplace and shows that nearly half of working-age women in the UK are providing an average of 45 hours of unpaid care every week and face disproportionate setbacks in their careers as a result.


Women in the UK provide more than twice as much unpaid childcare per year as men and, according to The National Bureau of Economic Research, in married couples, where both parents work full time, women spend 40% more time caring for children.


Women also spend more time caring for adults than men and 830,000 women who provide care for an adult are unable to work entirely on account of their care responsibilities.


Gender inequalities in caregiving contributes directly to gender pay and pension gaps and is resulting in financial instability for millions of women across the country.


Some key findings from the report include:

  • 450m hours of childcare provided by women each week
  • £382 billion is the value of unpaid childcare provided by women annually
  • £50 billion worth of unpaid adult care provided by women annually
  • 5 million women want to work more hours if they had access to flexible working, which would boost women’s earnings by over £28 billion annually


Chief executive at The Women’s Organisation, Maggie O’Carroll says:


“The role of caregiver has long been associated with women and often it is the case from an early age. So in actual fact, this is something that affects women from education right through to employment – and it impacts women’s participation in the social sphere too.


“What is required here is systemic change and we must challenge hideously outdated gender norms, both in and out of the workplace. If we can adapt work systems to support and promote more men in caregiving roles, those societal ‘norms’ will inevitably follow.


“The sad fact is men are still seen as breadwinners and women as caregivers and it’s hardly surprising.


“The pandemic massively exacerbated gender inequalities – last year, the gender pay gap widened for the first time in five years.


“This in turn has an influence on new parents taking decisions around the division of care. It makes more sense to sacrifice the lower income – and so the cycle continues.


“We desperately need salient examples of men in caregiving roles and women as breadwinners.


“Improved access to affordable childcare, flexible working practises and a more balanced approach to parental leave policies are crucial if we’re to give women a fair shot.”


The CPP recommends increasing the amount of “free childcare” for three- to four-year-olds, expanding the 15 hours a week allowance for disadvantaged two-year-olds, and proposes additional funding for after-school and holiday clubs.


It also calls for a national target of 70% of job adverts highlighting flexible working practices by 2025 and a reform of parental leave that offers take-it-or-lose it paid leave for fathers and co-parents.


Additionally, it asks that flexible working be made a day-one right for workers. According to the CPP, increased flexible working could increase the earnings of female carers by £28.4bn a year, and add £60bn a year to the UK economy.


You can read the full report here