LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Expecting women to stay at home while their husbands earn a living is increasingly a belief of the past for most Britons - unless those women are new mothers - a survey found on Tuesday.
Nearly three-quarters of the British public disagree with the attitude that a woman’s place is in the home - up from 65 percent in 2012 and 58 percent in 2012 - according to a poll of 4,000 people by the National Center for Social Research (NCSR).
Yet a third of respondents to the British Social Attitudes poll said mothers of children aged under five should be stay-at-home mums, while only 7 percent said they should work full-time.
As in many other nations, workforce and pay gender inequality has been a persistent problem in Britain despite sex discrimination being outlawed in the 1970s, and has sparked a public debate in recent years over why the wage gap remains.
Men in Britain earn on average 18.4 percent more than women, according to government data published last year.
“The people of Britain are moving away from the idea that men should be breadwinners and women homemakers,” Nancy Kelley deputy chief executive of the NCSR, an independent research institute, said in a statement.
“Yet when we asked people if they thought mothers of pre-school age children should work we found no increase in support in recent years, against a backdrop of several policy changes aiming to help working families manage work and childcare.”
Women in Britain who switch to part-time work after giving birth suffer a long-term penalty in striving for equal pay, with educated mums the biggest losers, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) - a leading think tank - said earlier this year.
The NSCR poll found that 69 percent of people said parental leave should be shared, yet government forecasts suggest that less than a tenth of British families have taken up the option to divide paid leave since the policy was introduced in 2015.
“Clearly, society has an issue with women being mothers and being in work,” Wanda Wyporska, the executive director of The Equality Trust charity, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“In general, the social attitudes survey shows there is a gap between people attitudes and what they are prepared to say to a researcher, and what the reality is.”
Britain introduced a law in 2017 requiring companies with at least 250 workers - which covers almost half of its workforce - to report pay discrepancies between male and female employees.
Reporting By Sonia Elks, Editing by Kieran Guilbert Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org