According to the Child Poverty Action Group, the cost of raising a child to 18 in 2021 could be as much as £71,611. Academic Joanna Zajac has a three-year-old daughter and would like another child, but has realised that it is not financially viable, mainly because of childcare costs. “I am Polish and my partner is Italian and in both of these countries you have heavily subsidised childcare, whereas the UK is lagging seriously behind,” she says. “We both work, so we’re already paying the equivalent of another mortgage for our existing childcare. Britain feels like the worst place you could possibly be in Europe when it comes to raising small children.” In a recent survey of more than 20,000 working parents, 97% of respondents said the cost of childcare was too expensive.
The situation has become so dire that Zajac is taking up a better-paid academic post abroad to see if she can earn enough to afford a second child. “Our family will have to separate for a number of months or years and, at 37, I’m also getting older, so things still might not work out because of my biology,” she says. “It is hard not to feel like we have missed our chance.”
For scientific researcher Sarah Hague, 27, even being at the younger end of the millennial generation means feeling a financial burden that is weighing on her decision to have children. “It feels dishonest to say that we won’t have kids – it’s that we can’t because me and my partner both have huge student loans after completing PhDs and it’s a battle between choosing housing or a family,” she says.