The Costs of Children

The Costs of Children

Parenting and Democracy in Contemporary Europe

Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson

The expert contributors provide an assessment of how countries can handle the fair allocation of the costs of childcare. They look at the experience within Europe in recent years and show in particular how these interrelate with the objectives of improving income, employment and social inclusion. The book’s conclusion reveals that choice is the key ingredient as families have different views and different degrees of support available from their relatives. Income and social inclusion can provide choice but ironically employment does not always. An employment-based model can sometimes narrow people’s choices, particularly for people on low wages. The major concern is that most existing systems effectively discriminate against mothers.

Chapter 7: What stops lone mothers from working? Insights from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study

Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy


Raising employment rates of lone mothers has been a key policy target in the UK, as most recently reiterated in the Spending Review (DWP, 2007; HM Treasury, 2010). Under ‘welfare to work’ or ‘workfare’ policies, the state has defined new objectives for lone mothers, including how old the youngest child should be when such mothers return to the workforce and how many hours they should work. Ironically, lone mothers’ own assessments of the feasibility and benefits of paid work relative to unpaid care work have been treated as largely irrelevant in a discourse based on earning citizenship through participation in paid work. Setting aside the question of whether lone mothers should receive state support for care, little attention has been given to the feasibility of more lone mothers being able to work, taking into account their prior experiences in the labour market, as well as their qualifications and childcare options. This chapter reflects on two critical issues that are related to lone mothers’ relatively low-paid work participation and highlights how having a coresident partner facilitates mothers’ employment. The first issue is how education, as interpreted through qualifications, mediates the workforce participation of both lone and partnered mothers.

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