Most people in the UK believe single parents should be first in line for government subsidies for childcare and better wages, according to research by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
However, the public also supports measures to encourage single mothers with school age children to take jobs by placing conditions on their benefits, the research shows.
Nick Pearce, director of IPPR, said: “The research results illustrate why issues that are high on women’s agendas – childcare, work-life balance and low wages – will be at the centre of the political battleground this year.
“On one hand increasing numbers of people support government spending on low income parents – particularly lone mothers – with young children. On the other, the public think lone parents should be encouraged into work as children get older,” he added.
Nearly three quarters (73%) think government should help the childcare costs of single mothers with children under school age. This declines to 60% for single mothers with children at school and to 50% for married mothers.
Contrary to trends in many other areas, there has been a growth in the proportion of people who think government should help meet childcare costs. In 1994 only 52% agreed with this view. The proportion rose to 57% in 1995 and reached 62% in 1998, since when it has been roughly constant.
Asked whose wages government should supplement, support is much stronger for lone parents (66%) and couples with children (59%) than for single adults or couples without children (26%).
The paper on public attitudes by Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby of the University of Kent is part of IPPR’s Rethinking Social Justice project.
The analysis is based mainly on the annual British Social Attitudes survey, which is carried out on an annual basis by the National Centre for Social Research.