Britain should do more to get stay-at-home mothers back into the workforce, the EU has decreed. A new report from the EU Council described the high numbers of mothers working part time or not at all as a “social challenge” requiring urgent attention.
It called on the government to provide more public-funded childcare to help them back into employment as a first step.
The Brussels directive came in an annual assessment of the British economy that was presented to Chancellor George Osborne last Friday. It said the UK labour market “has performed well in recent years and is set to remain strong” but raised concerns about the number of mothers not in unemployment.
“Despite the positive trends in relation to labour market outcomes, social challenges persist,” said the report. “The difference in the share of part-time work between women (42.6 per cent in 2013) and men (13.2 per cent) is one of the highest in the EU.
“The percentage of women who are inactive or work part-time due to personal and family responsibilities (12.5 per cent) was almost twice as high as the EU average (6.3 per cent) in 2013.”
The EU directive was met with a bipartisan response from British politicians and anti-Brussels lobbysists.
Robert Oxley, of the Eurosceptic campaign group Business for Britain, said: “Parents should have the flexibility to choose whether work or stay at home to look after their children.
“Of course, the Government can reduce barriers to employment for working parents. But frankly the European Union, which is beset by chronic unemployment and lacklustre growth, has bigger crises to worry about.
“It should not be hectoring the UK on its glowing employment record.”
UK Independence Party MEP Suzanne Evans agreed. She said: “This is ridiculous. High numbers of stay-at-home mums might be viewed positively, it signals women feel secure enough in the economic stability of their family unit to care for their own children.
“There’s enough pressure on women as it is – and motherhood is a tough job – without the EU piling in with unwanted opinions.”
Laura Perrins of the campaign group Mothers At Home Matter, said: “How British families organise their care is up to them.
“They shouldn’t be lectured to by the British government, or bean-counters in Europe. This is just another bullying tactic to get mothers to leave their young children.”