Income from employment
The working age (16-64) employment rate for lone parents (67.1%) is lower than for parents in couples (87.8%). And because there is only one potential earner, this means that a much higher percentage of lone parent households are not in paid employment – 33.5%, compared to 10.9% of all households with children in Scotland.
For those families in work, lone parents work fewer hours, on average – 28 hours per week, compared to 32 hours per week per working-age adult in all households with children in Scotland.
The underemployment rate refers to those who are in work but would like to work more hours for the same rate of pay. The underemployment rate amongst lone parents is 11.6%, compared to 5.5% of all parents.
Lone parents report that they often struggle to meet both work requirements and caring responsibilities, and that having access to more flexible work would help significantly.
For me, it’s the hours and how to manage with work and nursery or school. At that time, it was only three and a half hours for nursery, so it was like “what can I do and when can I work in those three hours?
It’s difficult if you go to work and they think you’ll probably need to take time off and the kids will be ill. When my first was just born and I went back to work and the employer was considering who to pay off and it was me in the end. The main issue was she knew I would have to take lots of days off because of the baby.
I’m not working just now but if I could find flexible work that I can fit around childcare arrangements I’d jump at the chance.
It would help if employers were a bit more flexible for single parents. Childcare isn’t easy. Maybe just opening it up a bit more rather than it being set times for jobs, and not just for single parents. As long as you’re working your hours, if they opened it up to be flexible timing that would be so much better for everybody, but it would help single parents an awful lot.
Lone parent households have a much lower average hourly pay – £9.59 per hour, compared to £12.65 per hour for all households with children in Scotland. The majority of lone parents are mothers, and are therefore likely to have lower hourly earnings due to the gender pay gap. In addition, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2018 found that, across the UK, lone parents are more concentrated in sectors with high levels of low pay, and are more likely to be low paid in those industries than either mothers or fathers in couples.
Skills and qualifications
Lone parents are more likely to have low or no qualifications than parents in a couple (11.6% and 7.4%, respectively). Employed graduate lone parents in Scotland are more likely to be in low or medium skilled occupations (26.5%) than graduate parents in a couple (16.0%).
More support for single parents to be able to have higher levels of training and education, which lead to more sustainable work and long-term savings for the government. Lots of single parents want qualifications - where is the support?
Childcare and transport
Recent survey data from England showed that 41% of lone parent households in paid employment, and 37% of lone parent households not in paid employment, find it difficult to meet their childcare costs. This is compared to 13% of households where both parents are in paid employment, and 18% of two-parent households where one parent is in paid employment.
Childcare costs have always been a big issue. The challenges I’ve had were before he went to school – holding down a job and paying for private sector childcare was ferociously expensive… The difficulty I have now is childcare when school’s not on. The school has an after-school club, which not all of them do, but there’s two weeks in the summer when the holiday club isn’t on.
Some lone parents may share childcare responsibilities with their child's other parent, potentially helping them to balance caring responsibilities with paid employment, but many will not.
With regards to the availability of affordable and accessible public transport, the available data shows that 69.8% of low income lone parent households are very or fairly satisfied with public transport, compared to 73.9% of all low income households with children.