Survey shows changing attitude to sharing parental leave, but most still favour women doing the majority of childcare. However, attitudes to the stay-at-home mother model are changing.
A third of Brits say parental leave should be evenly shared, but around half still think it’s best that mothers do most of the childcare, according to the latest British Social Attitudes Survey.
The survey finds that 51% of people think the best option for a family with a pre-schooler is for the mother to do most of the childcare, despite 34% saying that parental leave should be evenly split between parents. This compares to 22% supporting this option in 2012, although Shared Parental Leave legislation was only introduced in 2015.
The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, reveals that 12% of the population believe that the mother should take the entire leave period (compared to 16% in 2012) when asked how parental leave should be divided. Forty per cent think that mothers should take most of the paid leave (43% in 2012). Millennials and those educated to degree level are most in favour of dividing parental leave equally (42% and 41% respectively). Those aged 55 years and over (27%) and those with no qualifications (28%) are least inclined to say mothers and fathers should halve it.
Nevertheless, when it comes to deciding how a family with a pre-school age child should best organise work and family life, only 16% favour arrangements that represent an equal split of childcare and work between parents. Nine per cent think that the mother and father should both work part time (compared to 5% in 2012) and 6% favour both parents working full time (up from 4% in 2012).
Fifty one per cent favour options which see the mother doing most of the childcare: 32% think mothers should work part time and fathers full time (compared to 38% in 2012) and 19% think mothers should stay at home and fathers should work full time (down from 31% in 2012). However, the proportion of people who are undecided on the best childcare and work arrangements for a family has risen from 19% in 2012 to 30%.
There is stronger consensus regarding equal pay, with most respondents (89%) saying it is wrong for men to be paid more than equally qualified women working in the same job role for the same company. However, the research reveals notable differences between demographic groups with 78% of those with no qualifications considering pay inequality as either ‘wrong’ or ‘very wrong’ compared to more than nine in ten graduates (92%). Women were significantly more likely (78%) than men (57%) to say unequal pay is ‘very wrong.’
Respondents were more divided when asked about a specific gender pay gap scenario, although the question asked was very limited and not contextualised. Respondents were asked is it right or wrong for men to be paid more than women in a company where men hold most of the senior positions and women hold most of the junior positions. While just over four in ten (43%) think this scenario is wrong, around three in ten (31%) consider it to be right and two in ten (20%) believe it is neither right nor wrong. Attitudes towards the gender pay gap vary widely by demographic group. Those most impacted are significantly more inclined to say it is wrong than those least impacted; almost half of women (48%) view the gender pay gap as wrong compared to 38% of men and graduates [33%] are less likely than those with no qualifications (55%) to think the gender pay gap is wrong in this scenario, although no questions were asked about the causes of the gender pay gap, such as barriers to promotion for women, which is more complex than unequal pay.