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Making decisions about work in one-earner couple households

Press release issued: 6 March 2009

The attitudes and behaviours of non-working partnered parents living in low-income households where neither partner is in receipt of out-of-work benefits, are the subject of a new report from the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre published today by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Sharon Collard and Adele Atkinson explored the factors that might influence decisions about work within these households, conducting in-depth interviews with 50 non-working partnered parents in three regions of the country.

They found that:

· As well as carrying out domestic chores, participants dedicated a considerable amount of time to activities with their children, including structured activities like homework supervision and unstructured play.

· It was not unusual for working partners to have jobs with early starts and long hours or shift work, which made it difficult for them to share school runs, childcare responsibilities or domestic chores.

· For the most part, participants were able to keep up with household bills and credit commitments by careful money management, but reported that it was a struggle. Only a few participants reported any arrears.

· Almost all the non-working participants had worked in the past, although in some cases not for 10 years or more.  The reasons why they were not working at the time of the interview included redundancy, health issues, a desire to look after their children, and lack of suitable childcare.

· Most participants said they planned to return to work at some point, with financial reasons and personal benefit being the main drivers.  Decisions about when they would move back into work were often linked to their children’s key educational milestones.

Most participants (mainly women) who planned to move into work wanted a job with part-time hours which involved minimal travel, to fit around family and childcare responsibilities.  They generally talked about looking for jobs that would be relatively low paid. 

There was considerable interest in support services targeted at parents seeking work and tailored to their needs, including: help to increase employability and confidence (for example CV writing, interview skills, basic computer training); help to find appropriate work (for example identifying family-friendly employers, careers advice); help to work out the financial implications of moving into work; and help to arrange childcare.

‘Making decisions about work in one-earner couple households’ (DWP Research Report number 560) by Sharon Collard and Adele Atkinson is part of the DWP Research Report series. 

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