Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 10:04 UK

Working parents at '15-year high'

Mother and daughter
Parents say they cannot afford to stay at home

The number of stay-at-home parents has fallen by a fifth to its lowest level in 15 years, a YouGov poll has found.

Now, 2.2 million parents stay at home, down on 2.8 million in 1993, the survey commissioned by uSwitch.com said.

Many of the 2,198 adults surveyed - of which 1,391 were parents - cited the rising cost of living as the main reason for returning to work.

But the National Family and Parenting Institute said parents had battled rising costs for years.

And it said the research failed to make special mention of part-time work, when it is an important element in balancing employment with caring for children.

The situation for lone parents was also not spelled out.

'Choices taken away'

The survey found one third of working parents thought their children would have a better quality of life if they stayed at home, and seven in 10 parents would do this if money was no object.

It also said that for 18% of parents with children under two, the main carer had to stay at home because they could not afford childcare.

The cost of childcare for the under-twos had risen by 33% in the last six years to 8,268 per year.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said economic factors were "taking away the choice for many young families".

"People who want to stay at home can't afford to due to rising household bills, and even people who want to return to work can't afford to either, due to the high cost of childcare.

"As a result, both parents and children are losing out."

'Best start'

Minister for Children, Young People and Families Beverley Hughes said the government was committed to ensuring parents had the maximum choices possible and every child the best start in life.

"We have increased support to parents seeking to balance work and family commitments, raising the level of Child Benefit and increasing the maternity leave entitlement to 52 weeks, with a goal of extending paid maternity leave to 52 weeks.

"New rights to request flexible working arrangements and paid paternity leave have been introduced.

She also highlighted investment in childcare services and early years education for three and four-year-olds.


SEE ALSO
Mothers 'denied flexible working'
10 Sep 07 |  Business
More mothers 'choose not to work'
06 Apr 06 |  UK Politics
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