UK parents least likely to share childcare responsibilities in developed world, says survey

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British men spend 24 minutes caring for children for every hour done by women, making the UK the worst in the developed world for parents sharing their childcare responsibilities, according to the Fatherhood Institute’s Fairness In Families Index.

Overall, the UK comes 12th out of 22 countries in the FIFI on different markers of gender equality. It has dropped three places since 2010. The top five countries in the 2016 index are all Scandinavian, with Sweden taking the top spot. Other countries more gender-equal than the UK include France, Italy and New Zealand.

On the indicator which compares the amount of childcare done by men and women, the survey finds that Portuguese men do the most: 39 minutes for every hour done by women, compared to 24 minutes per hour in the UK.

The research also shows UK men and women are better at sharing housework than childcare: British men do 34 minutes of housework and cooking for every hour done by women, placing the UK fifth in the table out of 15 countries for this indicator. In Denmark, which leads on this indicator, men do 44 minutes for every hour done by women.

Other findings include that:

  • parenting leave system is still only the 11th most equal (out of 21 countries for this indicator), despite the introduction of shared parental leave in April 2015. Iceland is believed to have the most gender-equal parenting leave system.
  • The British gender pay gap – which leaves British women earning an average of 17.4% less than men in similar full-time jobs – places it 15th out of the 22 countries measured. In New Zealand, which is in first place, the gap is 5.6%.
  • Relatively few men in the UK work part-time. They make up only 25.8% of the part-time workforce, leaving the UK 16th out of 21 countries measured for this indicator. Portugal tops the table again, with men making up 42.1% of the part-time workforce.

The Fatherhood Institute argues that UK dads and mums are held back from enjoying greater gender equality not by men’s lack of interest in looking after children, but by three key factors: the UK gender pay gap, a highly unequal parenting leave system and “mother-centric” family services.

It calls for a redesign of parenting leave, moving towards a Scandinavian-style system including a substantial period of well-paid, ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ leave for fathers; greater efforts to reduce the gender pay gap; and a requirement for early years, schools, social work and maternity services to publish data on their engagement with fathers and to be inspected on this by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

Fatherhood Institute chair Will McDonald said: “It’s clear that today’s fathers want to play a substantial role in caring for their young children – and mothers want more sharing too. Having dads more involved brings benefits for the children, the mothers, the couple and society.

“What our analysis shows is that compared to other countries, the UK has failed to create the structures to support families to achieve the greater sharing that they want, and that is so important for our children’s futures. This needs to change, or we will continue to fall behind.”

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: “WE are shocked but not surprised by these findings. The Fatherhood Institute’s research clearly shows that UK dads and mums are held back from equal parenting by the gender pay gap and a deeply uneven parental leave system. It simply does not make financial sense for many dads to prioritise parenting over work, and this harms everyone.”

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