Almost a fifth of women are now the main earner in their relationship

2nd February 2015

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Nearly one in five, or 17% of British women claim to be the main breadwinner in their relationship, claims new research from Scottish Widows.

The insurer’s analysis of 2,000 women found that their financial role in the family has evolved significantly. Notably while more than a third, at 37%, say their mothers were in charge of managing household finances while they were growing up, half, at 49%, of women living with partners are solely responsible for this today.

In addition, , the study discovered that 32% of this group claim sole responsibility for funding day-to-day household expenditure, including  energy bills, groceries, childcare and clothing, compared to just 13% of their partners.

Other households are more balanced, with 44% of couples living together sharing the responsibility equally. The study suggests that financial independence is especially ingrained in the younger generation, with the proportion of women in relationships who claim to be the main breadwinner in their household rising from 17% overall to 25% among 25-34 year olds.

In addition, this age group is also the most likely to keep finances separate from a partner, with more than half, at 52%, admitting they do not share any bank accounts with their partner, compared to 39% of women overall.  On average UK women first feel financially independent at just 22 years old.

Childcare still remains barrier

Despite the move towards gender equality in relationship finances and among younger women, childcare continues to drive a gulf between men and women, with two thirds, at 68%, of women with children under 18 still primarily responsible for providing childcare. Two in five, or 42%, of women with children said they agreed with their partner to take a backseat in their career to provide childcare.

But more than a quarter, at 26% say having children has negatively affected their career progression, and 37% feel it has reduced their financial independence.

It is not just providing childcare that impacts women though, as 26% of women who live with their partners with children under 18 are also responsible for funding childcare, compared to 8% whose partners fund this.

While 69% of women living with a partner and contributing to childcare pay up to half of their salary towards it, 15% claim the cost of having children looked after while they work amounts to more than half of their salary.

Jackie Leiper, women and savings expert at Scottish Widows, said: “When Scottish Widows was established in 1815 women were largely excluded from the workforce, couldn’t vote, had no right to their own property – and yet today our research found that the average woman feels financially independent by the age of only 22.

“Despite the huge strides that women have taken with finances, it is clear that childcare remains a significant barrier when it comes to career progression. We believe that both employers and the government should support families in balancing work and childcare responsibilities better. As part of Lloyds Banking Group, we are committed to seeing women succeed in the workplace and ensuring everyone can find the right work-life balance and plan for a secure financial future.”

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