Single parents ‘could help fill labour shortage if barriers were removed’

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Single parents could help fill labour shortages if barriers to work were removed by employers and the Government, a report has said.

The report, published on Monday by the Gingerbread charity, shows that single parents want to work but face “significant barriers”.

According to the report, single parents are almost twice as likely as parents in a couple to want to increase their hours, at 14% versus 8%, but single parent unemployment rates are double those of couple parents.

The pandemic has worsened the gap, with the number of single parents out of work for a year or more increasing from 28% in 2019-20 to 32% in 2020-21. The proportion of couple parents out of work remained 23% over the same period.

Victoria Benson, chief executive of Gingerbread, said single parents need flexibility and support to work.

“The UK is in the midst of an employment crisis with an incredible 90% of employers saying they are struggling to fill roles,” she said.

“Single parents are valuable to our economy and they want to work – but they need flexibility and support.”

She said the Government could address the labour shortage by working with employers to increase the number of flexible roles and by improving single parents’ access to childcare.

“If the Chancellor genuinely wants to address the UK labour shortage, this Government needs to work with employers to ensure more quality part-time and flexible roles are made available and that single parents can access the childcare that they need,” she added.

“It’s essential that single parents are high on the political agenda as the Government seeks to grow the economy and support unemployed people back into work.”

The report was supported by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust and included analysis from the Labour Force Survey.

Its suggestions include that the Government raise the cap on childcare support that single parents can receive on universal credit to reflect the high cost of childcare, and to financially incentivise employers to divide full-time positions into job shares.

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