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Childcare costs drive mums to set up business


Study uncovers gender divide in switching to self-employment

Getting married makes both men and women significantly more likely to set up their own business, shows a new study on work trends among couples.

And for women, having a second child or being with a partner on long hours is a tipping point, reveals a paper in Entrepreneurship and Regional Development.

Brunel Business School analysed a decade of UK data mapping work patterns among 21 to 55 year-olds in different types of employment up until the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Having children is having a causal effect on women moving into self-employment, said Shireen Kanji, Professor of Work and Organisation at Brunel University London.

“But it's not having that effect for men. It is a very gendered effect. Both men and women value flexibility in self-employment, but women are taking that flexibility so that they can look after their children.”

For people in couples, the results highlight how significantly what their partners do, and the other people they live with, influence work choices. “Couples lead interlinked lives,” Prof Kanji stresses. “They're not just individuals out there in the labour market. Couples’ lives are very much constrained or enabled by what other members of household do.”

Some of the highest childcare costs in Europe, combined with a shortage of places and lack of Government investment, severely limit work options for UK women, Prof Kanji notes. Then the gender pay gap and the fact more women work part-time pile up the blocks even more, the study says, with the number of children they have another limiting factor. For women who start their own businesses, juggling care influences the type of work they take on.

Government incentives to encourage the kind of high-growth businesses women in some Nordic countries venture into is one solution, suggests Prof Kanji, who says one of the real problems for women is access to finance to set up their own businesses.

“This work shows there's still a major problem for women in reconciling work and care when they have children. It is important because understanding the gendered nature of linkages deepens what we know about self-employment, entrepreneurship and gender inequality in the labour market and how these interlink.”

Image: Adam Winger on Unsplash