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The Costs and Implications of Motherhood for Women

How women bear Motherhood penalty

The motherhood penalty, as illuminated by a recent report from Scottish Widows, underscores the enduring impact on women’s financial well-being when they take breaks from their careers to raise children. High childcare costs often prompt women to prioritize family responsibilities, leading to long-term consequences, particularly in retirement planning. The Women & Retirement Report by Scottish Widows reveals persistent structural inequalities in pay and employment, with women experiencing more significant career setbacks due to childcare responsibilities.

What is Motherhood Penalty?

The motherhood penalty manifests through women leaving jobs or transitioning to part-time roles to care for children, actions undertaken by 37% and 47% of women, respectively, compared to 19% and 15% of men. Single mothers, in particular, face challenges, with 51% finding it harder to secure new employment after having children. These decisions contribute to lower earnings for mothers and hinder their ability to save for retirement, leaving 39% of women overall not on track for even a minimum retirement lifestyle.

The various impacts

The financial impact is more severe for single mothers, with three in four estimated to struggle for a basic standard of living in retirement. Divorced mothers also face challenges, with 60% expected to experience similar difficulties. The report indicates that single fathers are less affected due to better access to childcare, higher earnings, and the ability to stay employed, enabling them to contribute to retirement savings more consistently.

The motherhood penalty reflects societal expectations, and Stephanie Lowe, Goodto’s Family Editor, notes that women often bear the mental load of family responsibilities, influencing their career decisions. The report suggests that reforms should focus on supporting women to remain in high-quality employment while raising families, emphasizing improved access to and funding for childcare. Additionally, pension policies should address the specific needs of lower-income women.

In short

Although progress has been made, including initiatives promoting earlier pension contributions, the gender pension gap and motherhood penalty persist. The report emphasizes the need for continued efforts to achieve gender pension parity, with a focus on childcare support and tailored pension policies. Lowe emphasizes that societal, workplace, and home expectations need to evolve to address the entrenched motherhood penalty. Despite strides, the report highlights the considerable distance yet to be covered in achieving meaningful change.

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