Fewer than one in ten women stay at home to look after their childrenLatest census figures show 300,000 fewer staying home than thought
Concerns for well-being of mothers and impact on toddlers in day careStay-at-home figures dropped from 17 per cent of women 20 years ago
01:37 GMT, 17 December 2012
Fewer than one in ten woman of working age are staying at home to look after their children and families
The stay-at-home mother is fast becoming consigned to history, according to the latest census figures.
Returns showed there are 300,000 fewer than officials had previously estimated, with those who devote their lives to bringing up families now reduced to a tiny minority.
Fewer than one in ten women of working age are stay-at-home mothers.
The collapse follows a decade in which governments urged mothers to take jobs on the grounds that working is the route to fulfilment for women and that families with two incomes are much less likely to fall into poverty.
Critics, however, are concerned for the well-being of mothers who might prefer to be with their families, and the impact on increasing numbers of toddlers who spend long hours in day care.
The 2011 census results found there are 1,598,000 women who do not work because they are looking after their home and family – 298,000 fewer than estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
In the 1970s, when the term ‘housewife’ was still popular to describe the lives of millions of mothers, the great majority of women with young families stayed at home.
Two decades ago, at a time when higher career expectations combined with fast-rising house prices to push increasing numbers of mothers into the labour market, 17 per cent of women were estimated to be stay-at-home mothers.
That fell to 12 per cent by 2002 and has now dropped below 10 per cent. The census results also showed there are 538,000 more women who have jobs than official estimates calculated.
The additional numbers mean there are now just under 13million women in England and Wales who work or who are looking for work – a figure growing close to the 14.6million men who are reckoned to be ‘economically active’.
The decline in numbers of stay-at-home mothers will be welcomed by ministers as the Labour drive to push mothers into work has continued under the Coalition.
Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss has made a priority of providing cheaper day care to help mothers into jobs.
In an article earlier this year she said it was ‘vital’ for mothers to work, adding: ‘To power ahead Britain needs to look at best practice from overseas to discover how to increase women’s participation, especially for those who are parents.’
The fall in numbers of stay-at-home mothers follows drives by successive governments to take on jobs over the last decade
But critics say the sky-high level of house prices and the lack of help for two-parent families in the tax and benefit systems means most mothers have to work, whether they like it or not.
Family researcher Patricia Morgan said: ‘There is an assumption that all mothers are desperate to work.
‘But the evidence that is available says they would mostly rather be at home looking after their children, and go back to work when the children are older.’
Critics of Coalition policy say benefits such as tax credits are skewed towards helping single mothers and there is no assistance for couples.
A report last year from the CARE charity found that married couples where the mother stays at home face a tax burden 42 per cent higher than the average tax level in developed countries.
The number of women directors has increased by 240,000 over the past five years, but there has been little change in the types of profession where they hold senior positions, according to research.Information services firm Experian said there had been a 24 per cent increase in female directors since 2007, compared with a rise of 15 per cent among men.