Wednesday 18 May 2016 3:54 am

You can't have it all: The UK is one of the worst places to be a working mother in Europe

Entire generations of women have been lied to about being able to have it all: a new report suggests the UK is one of the worst places to be a working mother in the developed world.  

A major new study of 18 countries in Europe and the US found that the cost of motherhood is highest in Ireland, where the difference in pay between women with at least one child and those with none is 31 percentage points. Germany comes second, with 23pp between the two, followed by Norway, with 19pp.

The UK is the fourth worst place in Europe to be a working mother, with a 16 percentage point difference between the two, coming just after the US, with 19pp. 


Even after controls for education, work experience, age, location, industry, job title and company are applied, the economic cost of motherhood "remains large", the Glassdoor report found. It argued that "social and family structures in effect tend to penalise women with children".

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of Glassdoor, said: “Of some concern is the high 'cost of motherhood' in the UK, whereby the gender pay gap widens amongst working women with children. British working mothers are significantly worse off than those without family responsibilities, and this pressure will not help the UK address its workplace diversity issues.”

The cost of motherhood is lowest in Italy, Spain, and Belgium, where pay differences were three percentage points or less.

The good news is that gender gaps are closing – female participation rates have increased across the board – but the bad news is that they are still low.

Women are particularly under-represented more senior jobs: fewer than 40 per cent of managers across Europe are women. Sweden, Norway, the UK, and Portugal were the best performers while the Netherlands, Denmark, and Italy, at around 27 percent, came out as the worst.

But the gender gap in employment for those who have gone through tertiary education is around half of what it is for those with less than upper secondary education. This could be paving the way for change, as across Europe more women than men are now enrolled in tertiary education. However there is still a gap in employment between men and women, and it is greatest in Greece, the US, Italy, and the UK, while Sweden, Norway and Denmark have the smallest difference.

In fact, these three countries were ranked highest for best overall gender equality while Greece, Italy and Ireland had the lowest overall gender equality in the workplace. The United States came near the middle of the pack at eighth among the 18 countries and the UK came 11th. 


The study was carried out by Llewellyn Consulting using data from the World Economic Forum, European Commission, OECD, and Eurostat.

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