Lets work less

I’ve long had frustration with how our capitalist system works.  Especially since having kids.  Things get damn expensive.

This post kind of focuses of the children/family angle, but will hopefully show how our society is driven to spend and we increasingly feel tied down because of what we feel we need to commit to.

Perhaps turn away from the following figures if you plan to have kids and want to maintain both parents working. 🙂

So if the ‘mother’ plans to go back to work full time then kids have to have full time care.  In the UK families are not as close to each other as other countries, so there is a natural reliance  on child care.  This usually comes in the form of a nursery or childminder.

A quick search on Brighton Nurseries will show a common price of £40 per day per child at a nursery.  Some are a bit less, others easily go up to £50 per day.

So if you have one child and work full time then that’s 5 days per week for 52 weeks per year.  Yes there will be holidays in between, but to keep your childs place often you are pressurised into paying for their attendance even if they are not there.  For calculation purposes and to show I am not trying to be excessive we could calculate this to be based on 48 weeks per year.

So, £200 per week (£40 per day) x 48 weeks = £9600.

£9600 is after tax.  So ‘the mother’ would have to earn around £12,000 per year before they can start paying themselves.

Of course it’s worse if you have two children under the age of 5.  It could be double that figure (£24,000).  Our government does support working families financially with child care, but this is only when the child turns 3 – not quite quick enough – (especially when they encourage mothers to get back to work within a year).

So if you did have 2 kids (like I do) £24,000 is a lot of money to find every year – just to cover the costs of childcare.  Even if it was a few thousand less, it’s still a lot of money!  Many parents obviously opt out, or choose to work part time.  Putting their career on hold and then feeling like they can’t (or don’t want to) get back on the ladder once their kids start school full time.

It’s also very stressful. Getting kids ready early in the morning. Picking them up when they are tired.  The sadness of not spending as much time as you would like with them…it just doesn’t feel right, not to me anyways.

The bigger point is that whilst this example is very much a reflection of my experience and situation – the pressure to keep working and make money is huge.

  • If you commute a fair chunk of your wages will go on travel.
  • If you don’t commute you probably get paid less or you can achieve the same salary by living in a prime area (and therefore probably having a bigger mortgage to pay).
  • If you work you probably spend a lot more on eating out at lunch time (unless you are very organised!)
  • If you work full time and have a family you probably don’t spend nearly as much quality time with them as you would like. And many have the need for a second family car. And of course child care costs!
  • etc, etc, etc

I could go on, but the point is that it is very expensive to be a ‘full time worker’.

If you didn’t have to work ‘as much’ many of the costs could be significantly reduced. It’s easy to save a bit of money here and there.  The extra time could be used to do those things that you really want to or should do. I’d be very surprised if people’s lives overall would not improve.

There is a report recommending a 21 hour working week by the New Economic Foundation.

I know that I’m not the only one who feels our modern, western, capitalist society needs to change to be more human, social and community focused.

7 comments on “Lets work less

  1. -

    It’s incredible to see how the issue is the same all over the globe.

    We live in Israel and although the numbers are a little different the bottom line is still the same, one of the parents ends out working just to pay the kids’ bills that wouldn’t be there if he/she weren’t working in the first place.

    I’ve also heard the same from my brother in NY, and from friends in Costa Rica.

    It sounds like the stories they told from the Industrial Revolution are not as far as we thought they were…

  2. -

    I’m curious why your example only takes the childcare fees out of one parent’s income – surely it should be split over both, as they both have responsibility for the children/desire to have a bit more family time? If the childcare is split over both incomes, then it makes sense to reduce both incomes a bit by working fewer hours.

    I used to have a 21-hour working week – back when I was in my early twenties. I had no dependents, so earning less wasn’t really a big problem for me, as I didn’t spend a great deal anyway. It was great. 🙂 I’d thoroughly recommend it for anyone, not only families with young children.

  3. - Post author

    @Anna

    I calculate it on one persons income purely because if it costs almost the equivalent of one persons income to cover costs of working (in this case a focus on childcare costs) then why should the person be working just to pay costs.

    In reality, as you say, it is a team effort and both incomes should be taken into consideration. Reduced work hours for each person is one way to combat this to either reduce costs partially or completely.

    When kids are involved this is often called ‘relay parenting’.

    I guess the point is that we should all be thinking creatively about working. Though it can be difficult when ‘proper/professional’ jobs only come as full time options. Part-time work should be embraced more by employers.

  4. - Post author

    @Anna

    I calculate it on one persons income purely because if it costs almost the equivalent of one persons income to cover costs of working (in this case a focus on childcare costs) then why should the person be working just to pay costs.

    In reality, as you say, it is a team effort and both incomes should be taken into consideration. Reduced work hours for each person is one way to combat this to either reduce costs partially or completely.

    When kids are involved this is often called ‘relay parenting’.

    I guess the point is that we should all be thinking creatively about working. Though it can be difficult when ‘proper/professional’ jobs only come as full time options. Part-time work should be embraced more by employers.

  5. -

    There are signs of more enlightened attitudes in some companies – not fast enough perhaps but there are some very senior people working part-time. It’s harder for a middle manager to argue “it’s not practical”, if one of the directors is making it work. I think the recession has speeded things up a bit – my old company offered a year sabbatical to employees last year at quarter pay, instead of making people redundant. While it wouldn’t suit everyone, I know at least one guy who took it to go travelling with family. One of the problems though is that many companies who are very flexible about work patterns for their existing staff, just never think to apply that when recruiting, so it can be hard to get a part-time or compressed hours job if you don’t already have a full-time job at that company.

    I know that, when discussing flexible working issues with senior women, one of the problems they saw with encouraging more flexible working was that it often tends to be presented as just a “female issue” rather than an “everyone” issue, and people would reject it as “nothing to do with me, we don’t need this in my dept”. The flipside of it becoming an “everyone” issue is that it becomes less of an issue career-wise – if anyone can do it, rather than one group, then it becomes impractical to discriminate against people. Having a life outside work, and being able to bring all the skills from that life into work becomes a benefit rather than a negative.

  6. -

    There are signs of more enlightened attitudes in some companies – not fast enough perhaps but there are some very senior people working part-time. It’s harder for a middle manager to argue “it’s not practical”, if one of the directors is making it work. I think the recession has speeded things up a bit – my old company offered a year sabbatical to employees last year at quarter pay, instead of making people redundant. While it wouldn’t suit everyone, I know at least one guy who took it to go travelling with family. One of the problems though is that many companies who are very flexible about work patterns for their existing staff, just never think to apply that when recruiting, so it can be hard to get a part-time or compressed hours job if you don’t already have a full-time job at that company.

    I know that, when discussing flexible working issues with senior women, one of the problems they saw with encouraging more flexible working was that it often tends to be presented as just a “female issue” rather than an “everyone” issue, and people would reject it as “nothing to do with me, we don’t need this in my dept”. The flipside of it becoming an “everyone” issue is that it becomes less of an issue career-wise – if anyone can do it, rather than one group, then it becomes impractical to discriminate against people. Having a life outside work, and being able to bring all the skills from that life into work becomes a benefit rather than a negative.

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