Career pressures force women to delay having children

Britain is facing a serious baby shortage because career pressures are forcing women to delay having children, a report shows.

The ‘baby gap’ between the number of children British people want and the number they actually have is more than 90,000 a year, according to research by the think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The average woman loses £564,000 in earnings over her lifetime if she has her first child at 24 compared to a similarly educated childless woman.

But if a woman waits until the age of 28, she will lose about £165,000, the survey of 1,100 women showed.

If women in their 40s had been able to have as many children as they said they wanted in their 20s, there would be an additional 13% more children born in Britain each year, the report estimated.

Nick Pearce, director of the institute, said: “Britain is now at a demographic fork in the road and in danger of taking the wrong direction. Although our population is rising, a fall in fertility would have serious long-term consequences.

“It would make it harder to earn our way in the world and to pay for valued public services. Fertility patterns can take up to 40 years to change so politicians need to start taking action now.”

The report recommends:

  • Introducing a ‘daddy month’ – at least four weeks paid leave specifically allocated to fathers on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis

  • Free part-time childcare as an entitlement for all children and means tested full-time provision

  • Increasing paternity leave pay from £106 per week to 90% of average earnings and extending the period of paid leave from two to four weeks.

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