Women paid more than their partners still more likely to reduce hours or stop working after childbirth

A new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that new mothers are more likely to adjust their hours or stop working regardless of whether they are higher paid than dads.

Mother cleaning with her baby and partner sitting on the sofa, not helping


Women who earn more than their partners before childbirth are still more likely to stop working or reduce their hours than men, with dads’ working patterns largely unaffected, according to a new study.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies, which carried out the research, says this correlates with evidence of mothers doing more of the Covid-related childcare than fathers, regardless of whether the mother earned more than the father before the crisis.

The study shows the average employment and hours of work of men barely change after they become fathers, while the employment of women falls sharply from above 90% to below 75% after childbirth and, amongst those who remain in paid work, hours of work fall from around 40 to less than 30. Further, the wages earned per hour stagnate for working mothers, while continuing to grow uninterrupted for fathers. This has huge implications for women’s future earnings, for the gender pay gap and the gender pension gap.

Even when women have higher wages than their male partners before childbirth, their employment falls by at least 13% during the first years of parenthood and remains at this lower level for the next decade, says the report. Their lower-wage male partners remain in paid work at much higher rates and for longer hours.

Covid patterns were consistent with these gendered patterns, the report states. Among those parents who worked both before and during the lockdown, mothers who were the higher earner in the couple before the lockdown worked the same number of paid hours during the lockdown as their lower-paid male partners. In contrast, fathers who were the main earner pre-lockdown were working almost double the number of hours as their lower-paid female partners.

The figures are more stark when it comes to uninterrupted working time. No matter who was better paid before the lockdown, the research found mothers always did less uninterrupted working time during the confinement period.

The study also found that lower-paid mothers did double the amount of housework and 41% more childcare than higher-paid fathers, while higher-paid mothers did 6% more housework and 22% more childcare than lower-paid fathers.

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