Our new research has shown that outdated skills and knowledge are really holding mothers back in their careers and keeping them out of the workforce. This is something they are struggling with and worry about. The solution to this challenge is to engage in adult learning but they aren’t.
1 in 2 of the mothers we surveyed had not engaged in formal learning within the last 3 years and 1 in 3 mothers over the age of 41 had not engaged in formal learning for 10 years or more. Given mothers are concerned about their skills and knowledge dating and how this could impact their career, why is this?
Too skint for study
Our research shows that for all age groups apart from the over 51s, cost is the biggest barrier to study. 42% of 18-30 year olds, 37% of 31-40 year olds and 36% of 41-50 year olds stated that they can’t afford to study.
Courses designed to build skills are usually the most expensive as they involve a greater investment of time and resources from the learning provider. The more expensive the course the bigger the barrier but it’s these skills-based courses that are crucial for supporting women returners, in particular.
This isn’t surprising when considering the breadth of evidence around existing financial struggles for UK residents.
- Stagnant wages and rising prices: The Resolution Foundation state that weak wage growth and rising prices have hit the living standards of UK residents to the level generally only seen in a deep recession.
- Rising debt: A 2019 report by the TUC showed a major rise in unsecured household debt now averaging £15,385 per home. The OECD reported that 1 in 5 middle-income households spend more than they earn.
- Increased housing costs: The UK has seen the largest fall in home ownership of any country in the EU over recent years. House prices have been growing 3x faster than median household income over the last two decades. This has had a knock-on effect to inflate monthly housing costs. Findings from Santander show that the average monthly rent in the UK is £912/household compared to monthly mortgage repayments of £723/household equating to a difference of £2,268 annually. This rises to a difference of £3,468 annually for Londoners.
- High commuting costs: The cost of commuting in the UK is on average, 14% of a monthly salary, compared to 2% in France and 3% in Germany.
- Skyrocketing childcare costs: We have the highest childcare costs in the world with 33.8% of family net income being spent on childcare (against OECD average of 12.6%). A nursery place for a child under two costs an average of just over £6,600/year part-time and £12,500/year full-time (jumping to just over £9,000 and £17,000 respectively for families living in London).
- Mounting bills: The increase in wages simply isn’t keeping up with the increase in bills. The 2018 average annual food cost for a typical UK household was around £4,753 in 2018 (based on the average 2.4 people per household). The average UK household spent another £1,170 per year on gas and electricity in 2018. The cost to light, heat and run our homes accounts for close to 5% of our household budgets each year.
With other costs like family holidays and Christmas it’s not surprising that mothers are struggling to find the money to invest in themselves.
The squeezed millennials
A wealth of evidence points to younger people being the hardest hit by financial challenges, including:
- Rising debt: KPMG found 1 in 5 UK adults aged between 25-34 spend over 60% of their monthly income the day they get paid. This age group are 3x more likely to end the month having spent all their monthly income or to be in debt. 42% said that debt repayments are a significant chunk of their outgoings.
- Increased housing costs: 2018 ONS analysis showed just 27% of 22-29 year olds have made it onto the property ladder, falling year on year.
This trend is reflected in our data. 42% of 18-30 year old mothers can’t afford to update their skills but this drops to 29% of 51+ respondents.
Digital Mums are calling on Government to do something about this. We are recommending they invest in the provision of a Back To Work Bursary to provide financial assistance for every woman returner to support them to invest in skills-based study. Kathryn Tyler, CoFounder
This blog is an extract from our new report “Locked out of Learning” exploring why mothers aren’t learning and how this is impacting their careers.
100 years ago this month the Ministry of Reconstruction’s adult education committee published its Final Report on Adult Education. This report argued for the importance of adult education for the nation’s welfare and security and laid the foundations for adult education in the UK for decades to come. 100 years on we have commissioned research to examine the impact motherhood has on female careers and employment levels, with a focus on the potential of adult learning as a solution to support mothers into rewarding work.
This month, we are sharing the report, infographics and stories from women that bring life to our key findings as well as our recommendations for Government, employers and other learning providers.
And if you would like some ideas of what you can do if you’re finding financial hurdles to learning something new, click here for some suggestions that we've pulled together to help you.