New results from a major international survey show that a big majority of women aged 18-50 with children under 18 years of age would prefer to work part-time if given the chance.

The Iona Institute says the findings show that government policy must be fair to the child-care choices of all parents.

The survey finds that when parents have children aged under 4, there is a marked preference for looking after them at home, and that young parents want flexibility so they can come to the child-care arrangement that suits them best.

The Global Family and Gender Survey is a major international study that looks at family trends and attitudes in 11 different countries, including Ireland. It surveyed 2,500 Irish people aged 18-50 in 2018, among them 1,253 parents. The findings are being released in stages.

The responses to the question, ‘Considering everything, what would be the ideal situation for you – working full-time, working part-time, or not working at all outside the house?’, the responses were as follows:

23pc of women wish to work ‘full-time’ compared with 62pc of men

61pc of women wish to work ‘part-time’ compared with 29pc of men

12pc of women said ‘not at all’ (meaning they want to stay at home full-time) compared with 5pc of men

4pc of both sexes said they did not know.

“Government child-care policy must be more suited to what parents want, rather than prioritise the demands of employers, as it seems to do at present,” Brendan Conroy of the Iona Institute said. “For example, in terms of resources, the Government is currently discriminating in favour of day-care over other forms of child-care, especially minding a child at home. Tax individualisation strongly favours two-income couples over one-income couples.”

The respondents also placed a significant priority on marriage and parenting, with 84pc agreeing that ‘having a good marriage’ is either ‘very important’ to them, or ‘one of the most important things in life’.

Some 97pc said ‘being a good parent’ is of very high importance – much more so than the 52pc who gave the same response for work.

Commenting on the findings, Brendan Conroy, who is a stay-at-home father and a member of the board of The Iona Institute, said:

“What the results show us is that Irish parents value home over work. This is not a surprise, but does Government policy really reflect this, or it is mainly aimed at getting as many people out to work as possible, and preferably in full-time employment because this satisfies the demands of employers?”

He continued: “This would seem to be confirmed by the Government’s preference for day-care over other types of child-care, especially remaining home with a child, and also by the continuing policy of tax individualisation which discriminates against couples where one stays at home in favour of couples where both go out to work.”

“The findings also show strong differences between mothers and fathers as to what their preferred work/life balance is. We see that far more mothers than fathers want to work part-time, not full-time, but public debate seems blind to this fact as well.”