Money worries could be the biggest concern for not starting a family, according to new research

maternity leave

Britain’s next generation of parents are delaying their plans to start a family due to affordability concerns, according to research by Scottish Widows think tank the Centre for the Modern Family (CMF). It found that almost half (45%) of 25-34 year olds plan to delay starting a family for at least three years.

The report revealed that half (50%) are delaying due to money worries, making this a bigger barrier than career goals (37%) or getting married (42%). A further fifth (21%) have debts they want clear before having children. 22% also hope to save more than £10,000 to fund their new family. Despite ambitious plans, almost two thirds (64%) have not saved anything, and even amongst those who have, average savings amount to under £1,600.

CMF’s research also found that would-be parents are striving for more equality. A third (31%) of fathers are currently solely responsible for paying for childcare (compared to 16% of mothers) yet more than two in five (44%) see this as a shared responsibility, compared to a quarter (23%) of current parents. 

The next generation of parents also see a need to share the practical responsibilities. Currently, 85% of fathers work full time after their first child is born, and 75% of mothers are the primary care-giver.

Yet the next generation of parents, 55% of would-be fathers plan to work full time, and only 53% of would-be mothers expect to be the primary care-giver. As a result, the number of parents sharing childcare is set to increase from 28% to 38%, enabling both parents to spend more time with their family, alongside their career.

Anita Frew, chair, Centre for the Modern Family said: “This latest CMF research shows that affordability is the key consideration for young people when it comes to planning their own families. It is important that this generation are given the support they need to plan and budget effectively in order to feel confident about starting a family.

“It is vital that they are encouraged to follow through on their ambitions, allowing both men and women to enjoy the best of both worlds, in order for us to see them follow through on these great intentions.”

However, whilst CMF data shows that only 1% of parents have taken advantage of shared parental leave to date, almost half (47%) of next generation parents plan to do so. The research also indicates that more could be done to encourage uptake: of those who do not plan to take it up, 14% claim they don’t understand how it works, 13% think it will harm their prospects of promotion and a worrying 7% don’t think their employer would welcome it.

Recent figures revealed by EMW also shows that just 3,000 new parents were taking advantage of the new rights to paid Shared Parental Leave in the first three months of 2016. By contrast, approximately 52,000 fathers and 155,000 mothers took paternity and maternity leave in an equivalent time period in 2013/14.

Jon Taylor, principal at EMW, commented: “Hundreds of thousands of families could be missing out by not embracing this new, more flexible system. Demand remains very low, even though it could be just as worthwhile financially, as well as being personally rewarding.

“Many new parents are still unaware of their new rights or are unclear about how the new system will work in practice – for their families and for their careers. Many of the old concerns which have long acted as a disincentive to taking extended maternity or paternity leave still remain.

“Fathers in particular may still be concerned over the perceived stigma attached to asking for greater flexibility to take a greater role in their child’s care, in case they appear to be less ambitious or committed as a consequence. However, employers have an obligation to accommodate eligible requests in the same way for fathers as they do for mothers.”

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