19 Apr 2018

Mothers more likely to struggle financially following breakup

6:48 pm on 19 April 2018

Mothers are almost twice as likely to experience financial hardship following a break up, a new study has revealed.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The study by Michael Fletcher found that 73 percent of mothers experienced an income decline compared to 38 percent of fathers.

For three years, Dr Fletcher followed 16,000 parents who seperated during 2009, analysing their individual economic fortunes.

He said his study was the first of its kind in New Zealand.

"I did two studies. The second study is the first time that anyone has been able to use a large sample of people where you can follow both him-and-her after they have seperated" he said.

Dr Fletcher's study found women also saw a 300 percent increase in welfare support payments.

"You can look at that in two ways- in one sense the social security system is working as a safety net the way it should do," he said.

"But at the same time there's a big increase in poverty, so its not protecting a lot of those people from being poor and also it doesn't change over time."

Once on the benefit, mothers often struggled to get off, he said.

"It's hard. Uunless you can earn a good hourly wage it's often not worthwhile to go out and take a full time job once you pay for childcare and all of those other things."

Beneficiary advocate Kay Brereton said she wasn't surprised by Dr Fletcher's findings.

"Most often [mothers] are the custodial parents...so this is a big indicator around child poverty and children ending up worse off," she said.

"Particuarly with the cost of childcare and the very casualised nature of employment- that makes it a real challenge for people to get off."

Ms Brereton said there were solutions to this though.

"Some of it would be some much better policy settings around how income is treated for people on benefits so that there is a bit more flexibility and they can earn more before it impacts on their benefit and it makes work seem attractive," she said.