|Stay-at-home mothers would help to revive Britain’s economy by returning to work after having a baby, the Government has suggested.
David Cameron’s official spokesman said it was “good for the economy” that the Coalition was helping parents to pay high nursery fees so that they could overcome “obstacles” to work.
The comments, made before new GDP figures are issued, provoked claims that the Government is “obsessed” with improving the economic measure at the expense of family life. Ministers have been reluctant to link their plans to encourage mothers back to work with economic growth for fear of being seen as prejudiced against stay-at-home parents.
City analysts have predicted that growth data will show that Britain has narrowly avoided slipping into a “triple-dip” recession.
Any growth, however, is expected to be negligible and is likely to increase pressure on George Osborne to adopt a “plan B” and relax his austerity programme.
In last month’s Budget, the Chancellor announced a system of tax breaks to help parents with nursery costs. But the plan, which will replace the vouchers regime, will exclude stay-at-home mothers and will give the greatest benefit to families who use child care the most.
Today the Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government was committed to supporting “all mums”, regardless of whether they were working or caring for children at home.
But he added: “One of the aspects of child care policy is supporting parents who do seek to work.
“For them, high child care costs can be a significant obstacle and helping people tackle those obstacles, yes, that is good for the economy.”
Liz Truss, the child care minister, earlier told the BBC that countries such as Germany had boosted their economies by increasing the number of women who returned to work after having children.
“It is obviously true that having a higher maternal employment rate does help a country’s GDP,” she said.
The campaign group, Mothers at Home Matter, said the Government was “obsessed” with GDP at the expense of family life.
Laura Perrins, a spokesman for the group, said: “I don’t know what type of government dedicates itself to separating mums from their young children.”