Mothers must work four months a year to break even on childcare costs

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New research finds that mothers working full-time need to work for a third of the year before they are able to see any financial benefit from returning to work.


A mother working full-time in the South West of England would need to work 19 weeks a year, or 672 hours, earning an average wage before she would break even on childcare costs for the year.

This compares with a working mother in the West Midlands who - according to the research by child trust fund provider Family Investments -  would need to work 16 weeks a year to meet her annual childcare costs.

The analysis is based on childminder and nursery costs data from local authorities and earnings data from the Office of National Statistics. The figures are based on a working week 0f 36.3 hours a week.

The research also found that mothers in the South of England - the data includes London - have to work 42 hours a year more than those in the North of England to cover their childcare costs.

Kate Moore, head of savings and investments at Family Investments, said, ‘In the North versus South stakes, affordability of care means mums in the North have to work fewer hours before their care costs are met and the difference is equivalent to a week a year. The differences in affordability of childcare are even greater when you dig down and look at the regions with mums in the West Midlands having to work significantly fewer hours before they break even on their childcare costs than those in the South West.’

She added, ‘These figures highlight the very significant costs mums face if they choose to return to work after maternity leave and the fact that they will spend up to four months of the year simply working towards these costs.’

‘What really jumps out from these figures is both the scale of the costs involved and the disparities in local affordability. It is important that the Government address this disparity which at present means, parents in some parts of the country find childcare, much less affordable than others. We hope that the Government acknowledge this issue in the Childcare Commission which is due to report back soon and we believe further research is required to determine why these regional disparities exist.’


Average childcare cost per hour

(childminder and nursery)

Annual cost of childcareAverage female hourly earningsNumber of weeks work required per year to meet chidlcare costs
West Midlands£3.22£6,086£10.9715.2
North West£3.30£6,232£11.0215.6
North East£3.45£6,524£10.7816.6
East Midlands£3.52£6,645£10.5717.3
East of England£3.91£7,397£11.7217.4
Yorkshire and & Humberside£3.63£6,853£10.6717.7
South East £4.27£8,067£12.4417.9
South West£3.82£7,228£10.7218.6

Source: Family Investments

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