Single parents face a challenge to stay in work

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Childcare costs and lack of flexible work mean UK single parents fare less well than other Europeans After her marriage ended, Joanne Jacobs*, 40, moved from the US to London, where some of her family live. She now lives with her three-year-old daughter and works full-time as a consultant.

She has joined the growing ranks of lone parents in employment in the UK — up to 69 per cent in the first quarter of this year, from 44 per cent in 1996.

This increase is in part the result of targeted government policy initiatives. In the late 1990s, the British government introduced the New Deal for Lone Parents programme which aimed to reduce unemployment by providing training, subsidised employment and voluntary work to the unemployed.

Then in 2003 the government introduced working tax credits, a means-tested benefit for low-income workers which helped to top-up wages.

Subsequent caps on unemployment benefits until a claimant is working 16 hours a week have moved even more people, including lone parents, into the labour market. But despite the increase of lone parents in the UK joining the workforce, they still fare far less well than their European counterparts.

In 2018 the employment rate for lone parents in the UK was 10 percentage points lower than that of the general population, according to official statistics released in April. This is the widest gap in the EU, bar Malta. The poor employment rate for single parents is particularly striking given the UK’s stronger labour market, resulting in a wider gap in the UK between single parents and the general population than in the rest of the EU.


Across the eurozone last year, 74 per cent of single parents were in employment, 5 percentage points higher than in the UK. In … Read More...