1 in 4 lone parents out of work

Almost 1 in 4 of the UK's 1.8 million lone-parent households – 650,000 in total  – are not in any sort of paid employment, according to a new report from the Policy Exchange think tank. The report also says the proportion of lone-parent households in the UK is the fourth highest in the EU – behind only Estonia, Latvia and Ireland.

Key points

  • The level of unemployment among lone parents can partly be attributed to when they have children. Over half (52 per cent) of lone mothers who had their first child as a teenager (16-19) are not in work or looking for work – compared with 40 per cent who had their first child aged 20-23, 29 per cent at ages 24-29, and 19 per cent in their early thirties.
  • Skills levels also matter: 84 per cent of lone parents who have left education and have degrees are in work – compared with only 54 per cent of those who left education without any qualifications above GCSE level, and 26 per cent who left with no qualifications.
  • Despite the continued problems faced by lone parents, the proportion in work has increased since the 1990s – partly due to employment support and stronger job search requirements introduced by the previous Labour government, and partly due to the increase in part-time work.
  • Lone parents also tend to have fewer children than married couples: in 2012, 57 per cent of lone parents only had one child, compared with 41 per cent of couples.
  • Nonetheless the average lone-parent household claims twice as much in benefit support as the average two-parent household.

The report recommends more intensive training support for lone parents when their youngest child is aged 3-4. It says there should also be better incentives within the benefits system for lone parents who find work.

Source: Matthew Tinsley, Parenting Alone: Work and Welfare in Single Parent Households, Policy Exchange
LinksReport | Policy Exchange press release | Gingerbread press release | Daily Mail report

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Publication date: 
Jan 17 2014