Mum and daughter

ONS figures reveal massive economic value of stay-at-home spouses

11th Oct 2018 - Jonathan Williams

Stay-at-home spouses contribute thousands of pounds a year to the economy according to new figures from The Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The research shows the value of the UK’s unpaid household service work is an estimated £1.24 trillion. Childcare was estimated at £5,358 per person, with cooking and doing the laundry at £2,400 and £1,355 respectively.

On average this means that stay-at-home spouses doing cooking, cleaning, washing and childcare, as well as travelling and looking after elderly relatives, add at least £18,932 per person to the national economy each year.

This is a crude estimate based on an average among the total UK population. Given previous data published by the ONS that showed the average mother on maternity leave does 60 hours unpaid work per week it is extremely likely that their contribution is much greater than the £18,932 figure.

In the past few years the Government has done commendable work on encouraging businesses to allow flexible work arrangements for parents, as well as providing funding for childcare when it is needed.

However, at times the Government has also penalised parents who choose not to work. In 2013 both the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Chancellor George Osborne were criticised for demeaning the role of stay-at-home mums, with Osborne calling it a ‘lifestyle choice’.  

Research by CARE has repeatedly highlighted how families are treated very unfairly under our tax system, with one earner married couples with children facing particularly tough penalties. Last year’s report showed that the tax burden on such a family on average wage was 20% greater than the OECD average.

Commenting, CARE’s family policy officer Jonathan Williams said:

“Contrary to what the Government has at times implied, these ONS figures show that stay-at-home spouses are not a drain on the economy but contribute in huge and hidden ways.

“Many couples rightly want to spend more time with their children when they are young and they should not be penalised when one spouses chooses to dedicate their time to staying at home and looking after their children.

CARE has called for a number of years for the Government to extend the marriage allowance and these new figure are further evidence that we should recognise the valuable contributions of unpaid stay-at-home spouses in the tax system.”

To read more about CARE's work on marriage and family, please click here. 


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