Traditional families with a working father and stay-at-home mother have fallen far behind in the race for decent living standards, a think-tank report said yesterday.
It said the earnings of fathers who support their families have fallen by 6 per cent in real terms since the mid-1990s, and that four out of ten families where only the father works now fall below the poverty line.
Part of the reason is that pay for working mothers has grown faster than that of fathers, making it difficult for traditional families to keep up, the report from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said.
Traditional families with a working father and stay-at-home mother have fallen far behind in the race for decent living standards, a think-tank report said It said the earnings of fathers who support their families have fallen by 6 per cent in real terms since the mid-1990s, and that four out of ten families where only the father works now fall below the poverty line (stock image)
The findings point to a growing crisis in families where the mother stays at home to raise her children rather than go out to work and place them in nurseries or with childminders.
Nearly a quarter of children live in one-earner families and in 85 per cent of these families the father rather than the mother is the working parent, the IFS said.
The warning over the plight of one-earner families follows repeated calls from supporters of stay-at-home mothers for tax breaks to allow women the choice to bring up their own children.
‘Because 85 per cent of one-earner families do not have a working mother, they have not benefited from the large increase in women’s earnings since the mid-1990s,’ the IFS report said.
‘As a result, while the incomes of two-earner families are 10 per cent higher than in 2002–03, the incomes of one-earner families have not changed over that period.
Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson said it was a mistake to strip tax allowances from stay-at-home mothers while granting them to their working counterparts
It said: ‘The only reason their incomes are any higher now is that benefit and tax credit payments to this group have doubled since then.
‘The average earnings of a working father in a one-earner couple are 6 per cent lower in real terms than in 1994–95.
‘This is even worse than earnings growth for other working fathers, for whom earnings are 10 per cent higher than in 1994–95.
‘This partly reflects the fact that fathers in one-earner couples are now less likely than other fathers to be in well-paid professional or managerial jobs, even though their relative education levels are unchanged.’
More than a third of families where only the father works are immigrant families, the report said, but the incomes of sole-earner fathers were falling behind for those born in Britain as well.
The report said: ‘Over the last 20 years, growth in the earnings of working fathers has been extremely slow, at 0.3 per cent a year on average, while mothers’ earnings have grown by more than 2 per cent a year. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for families where only the father is working to keep up with other families.
‘This matters: Around a quarter of children live in a one-earner couple family – around the same proportion as 20 years ago.’
Former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson, who introduced separate taxation for married couples in the 1980s, has said it was a mistake to strip tax allowances from stay-at-home mothers while granting them to their working counterparts.
Laura Perrins, co-editor of the Conservative Woman website, called for tax breaks for mothers who stay at home.
She said: ‘Clearly, the punishment of traditional one-earner, one-carer families in the tax and benefit system is really hurting children and pushing them into relative poverty. This needs to be reformed, and tax allowances should be shared.’