A third (33%) of Brits think that mothers of pre-school age children should stay at home rather than going out to work, according to a new survey. That is despite 72% of people saying they do not agree with the statement ‘It is a man’s job to be the breadwinner and a woman’s role to stay at home’.
Although this paints a picture of inconsistency on gender roles in Britain, there has been clear growth in the number of people willing to accept women as more than just homemakers: when the same statement was put to respondents a decade ago, in 2008, only 58% of people were willing to disagree.
The British Social Attitudes Survey, carried out annually by the National Centre for Social Research, shares key findings on politics, gender, work, climate and the welfare system. This year they found a country that is “at the same time growing together and growing apart” with regard to the five topics.
This year the BSAS found a country that is “at the same time growing together and growing apart”. There were clear demographic divides in the answers across the board, and shown starkly in the gender question: with 49% of those aged 75 or over thinking mothers should stay at home compared to 30% of those aged 18 to 34.
In addition, respondents with no formal qualifications were twice as likely as university graduates to say that mothers should stay at home.
This is despite a growing effort by the government over the last five years to push (much criticised) shared parental leave policies and childcare assistance.
It wasn’t the only area with discrepancies, as views on sexism were inconsistent too - 93% of Brits said sexist online bullying towards women is wrong but only 85% said the same about sexist online bullying of men.
Researchers asked participants whether it is acceptable for a man to make uninvited comments about a woman’s appearance in the street. They found just 8% of the population think it is rarely or never wrong for a stranger in the street to tell a woman that she “looks gorgeous”.
Meanwhile 57% say it is always or usually wrong and 27% think these comments are sometimes wrong.
20% of people think the government should be spending more on benefits.
They also asked respondents about welfare and work: finding that 70% of people think the government should top up wages of low earning single parents, 58% think they should top up the wages of low earning working couples with children and 71% want the minimum wage increased.
Over half of people (56%) think that cutting welfare benefits would damage too many people’s lives and as a result, support for an increase to unemployment benefits is the highest it has been for 15 years, with 20% saying the government should spend more.
One thing Roger Harding, head of public attitudes for the National Centre for Social Research, was clear on is that Brits have not been as affected by the threat of Brexit as politicians might believe.
“While the Brexit challenge looms large in the national conversation, many experts deeply worry about the global threats of climate change and technology replacing jobs. Brits are far more relaxed about the effect of both,” says Harding. “If politicians share experts’ concern, they have so far failed to communicate it to us.”