This post has been republished on Doing It For The Kids with kind permission from Joanna. You can read the original article over on Medium.


Like many new parents, I’m currently working out how on earth I’m going to balance my career, household finances, long-term economic security and motherhood goals. The freelance life  — setting my own hours, working from home — looks increasingly appealing.

And I’m not alone. A 2016 study by the IPSE showed that mums accounted for 1 in 7 freelancers in the UK and, since the crash of 2008, the number of mums choosing to take up freelance work has gone up by 79%. This compares to a 36% increase in the number of men freelancing during the same period.

Interestingly, I couldn’t find any stats on dads going freelance. Men remain men. Women become mums.

Freelancing means I’ll be around more for my son and we’ll need fewer hours of childcare. In part, this is an emotional decision based on my desire to spend more time with my kid. I’m also drawn to the flexibility freelancing offers and the chance to shape my own career path. But it’s also a decision rooted in the dismal economic realities for many young families: stagnant wages and high living costs mean that most families can’t survive on one income alone.

While freelancing might go some way to solve the immediate problems, what long-term effects does it have on women’s economic security?

I imagine my reasons for considering freelance work are much the same as other new mums. Full-time childcare would swallow up most of my salary. The relatively long commute would mean being away from my son from 8am until 6.30pm, five days a week. Part-time hours on my current salary wouldn’t bring in enough cash, even if my employer were to grant it, and doing longer hours on fewer days won’t solve the childcare cost problem in our case; flexible hours simply aren’t an option for my partner.

This leaves more women, already more likely to be in precarious full-time work, turning to the gig economy, thanks to low maternity pay, inflexible employment, and expensive and inflexible childcare. And there is a plethora of advice out there for women thinking of making the switch. Countless Instagram accounts full of inspiring women striking out on their own. And a new book by Annie Ridout — Freelance Mum — makes a fantastic companion for those thinking of making the move to freelance life. She is especially great at motivating women to ask for higher rates of pay.

But among my daydreams of mornings spent typing in cafes before taking my son to the park, I feel a creeping unease about what freelancing means for my future. Especially when I see my parents’ generation beginning retirements full of travel, volunteering and, um, free childcare.

While freelancing might go some way to solve the immediate problems, what long-term effects does it have on women’s economic security?

Freelancing is a great solution to many problems, but the fact remains that until society views parenthood as labour that should be fairly remunerated, women will continue to lose out financially.

During my research I’ve found less information on this. ISAs aren’t as sexy as flat white flat lays. And I guess in the scramble to manage bills, kids, jobs, housework and emotional labour, pension planning can always wait another week. Even Ridout’s otherwise excellent guide covers tax returns but is eerily silent on NI contributions and pensions.

This is a shame as freelancing has a big impact on women’s future financial security.

According to a 2018 study by the Chartered Insurance Institute, men’s pensions are five times bigger on retirement than women’s. This is thanks to the gender pay gap, divorce, and caring responsibilities. But lower employer contributions and lower personal contributions are also key factors in the pension pot disparity. According to Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, only 14% of self-employed people were paying into a pension in 2016/17. More women freelancing means fewer women paying into a private pension and, therefore, a smaller pot on retirement.

Freelancing is a great solution to many problems, but the fact remains that until society views parenthood as labour that should be fairly remunerated, women will continue to lose out financially. The flexibility and career-enhancing benefits of freelance life should be celebrated, but more needs to be done to ensure mums aren’t left economically disadvantaged. This workforce shouldn’t be forced to accept insecure work and forgo sick pay, holiday pay and pensions, as a means to survive.

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