The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) has conducted a deep dive into one of the driving forces of gender-based inequalities in the workplace – the division of unpaid care. The think tank's latest report, What Women Want, reveals that women in the UK are providing more than twice as much unpaid childcare per year as men (23.2 billion hours vs. 9.7 billion hours) as well as spending more time caring for adults than men.
Women are disproportionately the ones making sacrifices in their careers to meet these caring responsibilities, contributing to gender pay and pension gaps and resulting in financial insecurity, uncertainty, and instability for millions of women across the country.
CPP has demonstrated that these caring demands are detrimental to both individual women, and to the wider workforce. What Women Want finds that 830,000 women who provide care for an adult are unable to work entirely on account of their care responsibilities:
- One in four (26%) women providing unpaid care to a child had reduced their hours at work
- One in five (20%) women providing childcare are prevented from working more hours, despite wanting to work more
- One in five (20%) women providing unpaid care for an adult reduced their hours at work.
CPP’s research has found that millions of women want to work more hours, if only they had more flexible working opportunities. 45% of women who care for others said they would be able to take on more hours, while around one in five (20%) said they would be able to take on a new role. 14% said they would be able to take on a different job, potentially suggesting that new opportunities could become available.
What Women Want shows that more flexible working would deliver significant benefits to women, boosting the earnings of female carers by £28.4bn per annum, delivering new working opportunities for up to 5 million women and an overall boost to the UK economy of over £60bn per annum.
With women taking on the provision of a disproportionate share of unpaid care, they would particularly benefit from moves towards embracing flexible working. However, we also need greater investment in formal care provision and for workplaces to be able to adapt.
CPP has developed a number of recommendations to support employers and workplaces in this transition:
- Establishing a national target to ensure that 70% of non-emergency roles are advertised as flexible by 2025
- Creating a default flexible working option to be applied to all new job adverts posted on all major job websites
- Requiring all employers to consider flexible working arrangements for all new applicants
- Expanding access to training and development for management and leadership teams to help them understand how to positively respond to flexible working requests and foster a culture where flexible working is more normalised