85% of parents say that childcare costs are preventing them from having more kids, according to worrying new research

Findings of a recent survey highlight the devastating impact of sky high childcare costs on families

Working mum looking at bank account statement while holding her infant child on her lap
(Image credit: Getty Images)

New research has laid bare the damaging financial impact childcare costs are having on families. As any parent knows, the cost of raising a child is expensive enough, but average childcare costs can take a huge chunk out of family budgets.

According to the findings from a survey conducted by charity Pregnant Then Screwed, almost 46 per cent (45.9 per cent) of parents had been plunged into debt, by borrowing money, or had to use money from their savings to pay for childcare - an increase of 30 per cent compared to 2023. These figures rise sharply for single parents, where 66.5 per cent of single parents take on debt to pay for childcare.

While the government has pledged to make 30-hours free childcare available to all eligible parents from when their child is nine months old, staffing problems and chronic underfunding means that many childcare providers are unable to offer government-funded places, and the government is unable to compel them to do so.

The findings, which were the result of a survey of 35,800 parents, also found that more than half of parents (52.9 per cent) spend more than a quarter of their household income on childcare. Almost a fifth (19.3 per cent) spend more than half their household income on childcare. This huge financial burden has a devastating impact on parents' plans to have more children, with 85 per cent of those surveyed saying that they view childcare costs as 'prohibitive of having more children'.

Key findings

  • 45.9 per cent of parents have taken on debt, or used their savings to pay for childcare
  • This rises to 66.5 per cent for single parents
  • More than 70 per cent of mothers agree that the cost of childcare means it's not financially worth returning to work after having a baby
  • 85 per cent of parents feel that childcare costs prevent them from growing their families
  • More than half of mothers who have had an abortion believe that childcare costs was the primary reason to terminate the pregnancy.

Mother trying to work from home while looking after her child

Mothers are disproportionately affected when trying to balance work and childcare commitments

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In another tragic statistic, more than half (52.5 per cent) of mothers who had had an abortion agreed with the statement 'I believe that the cost of childcare was the primary reason for me to terminate a pregnancy'.

'We've got a cost of working crisis'

Speaking of the research, Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed say:"We’ve not only got a cost of living crisis, we’ve got a cost of working crisis that disproportionately impacts mothers." This is evident in the finding that mothers were more likely than fathers to agree with the statement 'I believe that after paying for childcare it doesn’t make financial sense for me to go to work'. More than seven out of 10 mothers agreed with the statement (70.7 per cent) compared to just five out of ten fathers (50.4 per cent).

This disproportionate impact, also known as the motherhood penalty, can have a huge impact on mothers when trying to figure out whether it's financially worth returning to work after having a baby. The survey also found that more than a third (36.6 per cent) of mothers who returned to work after maternity leave had to reduce their hours due to the cost of childcare, compared to just 12.4 per cent of fathers. Furthermore, the survey found that a fifth of mothers were unable to take on a more senior role at work, where they could likely earn more money, due to the cost and availability of suitable childcare.

A spokesperson from survey partner Women In Data commented on the worrying statistics, saying: “Collectively we need to close the gender gap and remove the challenges Women face to achieve equality of opportunities in the workplace and reduce burden of the unspoken ‘tax’ on mothers from additional unpaid labour as carers and in the home.”

Find out more about the disproportionate impact childcare has on a mother's career, as well as whether you qualify for help with childcare costs.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.