Number of female breadwinners rising

A new study shows the number of women breadwinners is rising, but warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could put send the trend into reverse.

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Women out-earn male partners in almost a quarter of households, up from a fifth 16 years ago, according to new research.

The research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on behalf of Royal London, the mutual insurer, suggest the common assumption that male partners are the higher earners is becoming outdated, but the Royal London says there is a risk that the coronavirus crisis will reverse the trend as more women than men are expected to have reduced hours to cover caring responsibilities, be furloughed or lose their jobs. A report out today by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests this is the case.

The percentage of households in which the female partner earns more than the male partner has steadily risen from 19.8 per cent in 2004 to 23.3 per cent in 2019 – an 18 per cent rise, says the Royal London.

Women earn the same as or more than their male partner in almost three-in-ten households, up from 22.3 per cent of households in 2004 to 27.6 per cent of households in 2019, the ONS figures show. Men earn more than women in seven-in-ten households (72.4 per cent), down from 77.7 per cent in 2004.

At the current rate of growth, the Royal London says it will take 62 years before women earn more than men in more than half of households.

It highlights the potential consequences for society of changing economics, including for the way couples spread the burden of caring responsibilities for children and adult relatives, the gender pay gap and the way couples manage their joint finances.



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