Over a third of young mothers in permanent debt, research finds

By agency reporter
December 5, 2019

Almost 40 per cent of young women struggle to make their cash last until the end of the month – and a third of young mothers say they are always in debt, new research published by Young Women’s Trust (YWT) reveals. 

Many of those surveyed said they live in daily dread of debts such as unsecured loans including credit cards, personal loans, store cards and overdrafts. And one in three said they did not expect to be free of personal debt until they reach 40. 

Sophie Walker, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust, said: “The best present to young women this Christmas would be an election result that promises freedom of economic choice and freedom from the debt they endure because of their status as second-class citizens. 

“Young women across the UK are pushed into doing jobs that society values and pays less; they are pushed into providing low paid and unpaid care work; they are forced into dependency on a dysfunctional welfare system then branded as feckless and left to fend for themselves. This has to change.” 

The survey found clear links between young women's experience of debt and pay inequality, unaffordable childcare, a complex benefit system and sexism.   

A third of young women turned down or left work because of travel costs. A third of young mothers reported they turned down or left work because they could not cover childcare costs.  

And over one in five young mothers also reported being paid less than the minimum wage they had been entitled to, and being paid less than male colleagues to do the same or similar work.  

Other key findings include: 

  • 42 per cent of young women had been offered a zero hours contract compared to 37 per cent of young men, and this percentage has been rising every year.  
  • 11 per cent of young mothers said they had used a food bank, as had one in 10 young women with a disability or long-term condition.
  • In a recent childcare report for YWT, half of young mothers said they skipped meals at least once a week (50 per cent) to provide for their children with this rising to two thirds (64 per cent) of those on Universal Credit, showing the financial strain the benefit is putting on young women.

Young Women’s Trust calls on political parties to commit to ease the debt burden by: 

  • Providing free year-round childcare to make working a more affordable option
  • Valuing and investing in sectors including childcare and social care that employ many young women
  • Investing in social housing
  • Tackling in-work poverty and taking action to deliver equal pay for all women
  • Insisting employers create respectful and fair workplaces which enable women to flourish
  • Overhauling Universal Credit so it supports young women to achieve their aspirations instead of pushing them into poverty
  • Introduce a Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) bill that ensures secure funding for specialist VAWG services, which can support young women experiencing economic abuse, such as abusive partners preventing access to work or control of finances 

The survey, which was  carried out for Young Women’s Trust by Populus Data Solutions from 25th June-11th July 2019 with approximately 2000 young women aged 18 to 30 in England and Wales, alongside a comparison group of 2000 young men,  found those facing intersecting forms of discrimination such as young BAME and disabled women, or those with caring responsibilities face a greater financial struggle.  

* Read the debt report here

* Read the childcare report here

* Young Women's Trust https://www.youngwomenstrust.org/


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