UK parents cut working hours and household spending to pay for childcare
Over a third of parents in the UK have had to reduce their working hours or take time off work to take care of their children due to the cost of childcare, according to a new study.
The survey, commissioned by price comparison site finder.com, showed that the average parent in the UK who pays for childcare spends nearly £5,000 a year. This is almost a fifth (19%) of the average UK salary after tax, which stands at £25,690 in 2023.
Around 1 in 5 parents (18%) are spending more than £10,000 a year on childcare in the UK – 38% of the average UK salary after tax. Costs are particularly high in London, where parents are spending an average of £10,268 per year on childcare, according to the poll, which was carried out in September.
A separate survey of 1,156 childcare providers by the Early Years Alliance, published in February this year, found 9 in 10 were expecting to raise fees, typically in April, and by an average of 8%, which was higher than in previous years.
The cut in salaries
Rising childcare costs have also forced 37% of parents in the UK to reduce their working hours or take time off to care for their children.
Along with the damage this could have on these parents’ careers, family finances are also affected. Those who reduced their working hours saw their income after tax reduced by an average of just under £9,000 a year.
Parents in London are impacted the most, as 63% revealed that they had taken time off work or reduced their paid hours to look after their children. The average parent in the capital lost around £12,300 from their annual income as a result of reducing their working hours.
Childcare costs hitting household spending
The high cost of childcare also affects how much parents can spend in other areas, such as holidays and family meals out. Around 6.9 million parents in the UK have had to make at least one spending sacrifice, according to the poll.
The most common sacrifice parents make is eating out in restaurants, with almost 1 in 5 (19%) cutting down on this to afford childcare. This was closely followed by foreign holidays (18%) and putting money into savings (18%).
Based on the survey, around 1.2 million parents in the UK are cutting down on essential spending, such as food or heating, to cover the high costs of childcare.
What is the overall cost of raising a child in the UK?
Childcare is undoubtedly expensive – and it’s just one element of the overall cost of raising a child. A report by the Child Poverty Action Group in 2022 found that the basic cost of raising a child to the age of 18 was over £150,000 for a couple and over £200,000 for a single parent, including housing and childcare.
What can parents do to navigate high childcare costs?
The cost of living crisis has already impacted household spending. When combined with the soaring cost of childcare, there are significant financial obstacles to overcome for those considering starting a family.
Liz Edwards, editor-in-chief at finder.com in the UK, said: “Many people could effectively become priced out of parenthood in the current economic climate.
“Now more than ever, parents will be feeling the pressure to go to work and earn more money to help cover these extra costs.”
The government has agreed to extend a scheme that offers 30 hours of free childcare a week to some families in England with children aged 3-4 years. (Different schemes operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)
Under the extended scheme, there will be 15 hours of free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds from April 2024 and 15 hours for those aged between 9 months and 2 years from September 2024. To be eligible, your household income must be at least £152 a week but less than £100,000 a year.
About the author
Sophie Barber is a content manager for finder.com in the UK, and she has over 5 years of experience in writing and publishing informative online articles for a variety of websites. She has a Master’s in English from the University of Exeter and is passionate about creating content that taps into trending topics and helps make personal finance decisions easier.