NEARLY ONE IN FIVE (17%) OF WOMEN claim to be the main breadwinner in their relationship, according to new research on changing financial roles commissioned by Scottish Widows to mark its 200th anniversary.
The study of 2,000 UK women found that their financial role in the family has evolved significantly in the two centuries. While a third (37%) of women say their mothers were in charge of managing household finances while they were growing up, half (49%) of women living with partners are solely responsible for this today. What’s more, 32% of this group claim sole responsibility for funding day-to-day household expenditure, including energy bills, groceries, childcare and clothing, compared to just 13% of their partners. Other households are more balanced, with 44% of couples living together sharing the responsibility equally.
The study suggests that financial independence is especially ingrained in the younger generation, with the proportion of women in relationships who claim to be the main breadwinner in their household rising from 17% overall to 25% among 25-34-year-olds. This age group is also the most likely to keep finances separate from a partner, with more than half (52%) admitting they do not share any bank accounts with their partner, compared to 39% of women overall. On average, UK women first feel financially independent at just 22 years old.
Despite the move towards gender equality in relationship finances and among younger women, childcare continues to drive a gulf between men and women, with two thirds (68%) of women with children under 18 still primarily responsible for providing childcare. Two in five (42%) women with children said they agreed with their partner to take a backseat in their career to provide childcare. However, a quarter (26%) of women with children say having children has negatively affected their career progression, and 37% feel it has reduced their financial independence.
It is not just providing childcare that impacts women though, as a quarter (26%) of women who live with their partners with children under 18 are also responsible for funding childcare, compared to fewer than one in ten women (8%) whose partners fund this. While over two thirds (69%) of women living with a partner and contributing to childcare pay up to half of their salary towards it, 15% claim the cost of having children looked after while they work amounts to more than half of their salary. Back in 1815, women were largely excluded from the workforce, couldn’t vote and had no right to their own property – and yet today, the research shows that the average woman feels financially independent by the age of only 22.