Mothers ‘take on more housework and childcare than fathers’ during lockdown

Mothers have taken on more childcare and housework responsibilities than fathers who have the same work arrangements during the Covid-19 lockdown, a study suggests.

In families where both the parents have paid work, mothers are spending more of their working hours simultaneously trying to care for children compared with their partners, an analysis has found.

Mothers are also more likely to have quit or lost their job, or to have been furloughed, since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report.

A sharp reduction in the time that mothers are spending dedicated to work amid the crisis could harm their careers and further increase the gender wage gap when lockdown is lifted, researchers warn.

The study, of more than 3,500 two-parent opposite-gender families, found that mothers are also far more likely to be interrupted during paid working hours with household responsibilities than fathers.

Mothers are doing paid work during two fewer hours of the day than fathers, but they do childcare and housework during two more hours each, the analysis from the IFS and the UCL Institute of Education has found.

Mothers combine paid work with other activities, such as childcare, in 47% of their work hours, compared with 30% of fathers’ work hours, according to the report.

The research comes as primary schools across England are preparing to admit more children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from next week. Schools and nurseries across the UK closed nine weeks ago amid Covid-19, remaining open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

The average mother – including those who did not work for pay – was doing nearly 60% of the number of uninterrupted work hours that the average father did in 2014-15, but now she is doing only 35%.

Lucy Kraftman, a research economist at the IFS, said: “Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements, be that not working, working from home or working outside the home.”

She added: “The vast increase in the amount of childcare that mothers are doing under lockdown, which many are juggling alongside paid work, is likely to put a strain on their well-being.”

Coronavirus – Wed Apr 29, 2020
Schools across the UK closed nine weeks ago amid Covid-19, remaining open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers (PA)

Of parents who were in paid work prior to the lockdown, mothers are one-and-a-half times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since the lockdown began. Mothers who were in paid work in February are 9 percentage points less likely to be currently working for pay than fathers.

Mothers who have stopped paid work during lockdown, while their partner continues, do twice as much childcare and housework as their partner.

But in families where the father has stopped working, but the mother is still in paid work, men only share childcare and housework responsibilities equally with their partner.

But despite doing less childcare than mothers, fathers have nearly doubled the number of hours they spend on looking after their children during lockdown compared with 2014-2015, the study found.

Sonya Krutikova, a deputy research director at IFS, said: “This may bring about changes in the attitudes of fathers, mothers, children and employers about the role of fathers in meeting family needs for childcare and domestic work during the working week.

“It may serve as an impetus for a more equal sharing of childcare and housework between mothers and fathers after lockdown ends.”

– Researchers surveyed 4,915 parents who currently live with their children in England between April 29 and May 15. The report focuses on 3,591 two-parent opposite-gender families.

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