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The situation of single parents in the world of work - with the Local Alliance for Families, Schwerte-

Fast facts

About the project


In the course of socio-familial change, single-parent families are now widespread, as one of many very different family forms that are lived under certain difficulties. In the course of a more work-centered social policy, combined with increased attempts to include other population groups in the labor market for demographic reasons, the situation of single parents in the labor market has become the subject of numerous studies and projects in recent years.

Project description and research questions

In the study "The situation of single parents in the world of work", which was completed in September 2015, the obstacles and opportunities faced by single parents in the Schwerte area in coping with the challenges of family care work and the modernized world of work were examined against the background of the disproportionately high level of SGB II benefits received by single parents. Building on the results, measures and assistance were also identified that are available or need to be developed or networked in the local and regional area in order to improve the situation of single parents in the working world in the Schwerte area. In view of the high proportion of women a. among single parents (90 percent) and b. especially among those living on basic income support SGB II (95 percent; Achatz et al. 2013: 8), the focus was placed on single mothers, even though some of the problems, resources and solutions identified also apply to single fathers.

Throughout the duration of the study, the respective steps and results were presented in the 'Study' working group formed for this purpose by the Schwerter Bündnis für Familie and discussed in the exchange rounds.


The decision to conduct a qualitative study was based on the interest in gaining insights into the life situation and the particular challenges from the perspective of those affected themselves and to record and process the relevant knowledge of experts.

Eighteen expert interviews were conducted with managers and employees from authorities and institutions who work with single parents, especially in relation to SGB II, or who are responsible for the concerns of this group or with people who have relevant expertise in the area of the labor market. A total of 34 single mothers were also interviewed or took part in the three discussion groups visited.

Summary of the results

Connections and backgrounds of the precarious situation of single-parent families were identified, as marked by a lack of suitable job offers on the labor market on the one hand and insufficient childcare options in terms of time or in general on the other; these were seen as decisive factors for unemployment and for dependence on SGB II payments. However, the particular burden on individuals is also reflected in the limited options available to local authorities, in this case as dual responsibility, both (to a certain extent) for securing the livelihood of families dependent on basic income support and for providing a high quality and quantity of childcare services. The particular difficulties for individual groups among single parents, such as younger mothers or older family women, became apparent, as the labor market rarely provides suitable work or even (part-time) training opportunities and the required flexibility is more likely to be on the part of jobseekers than employers, with notable exceptions.

The clear political prioritization of a work-centered lifestyle was also discussed in this study, but should not only be further researched as a fundamental social challenge, but above all problematized. There is also a clear need for further research and discussion on the many facets of the very unsatisfactory practice of post-marital maintenance and the changes in maintenance law, which goes far beyond this local study.

The following condensed results were obtained from the interviews and discussion groups with single parents: In addition to the structural factors of the labor market and childcare already mentioned, access to the labor market is influenced by a whole range of different factors, which definitely interact with the institutional provision of childcare and the willingness of employers to hire. There are the skills of the individual, especially previous experiences in work and training; but also the problematized images of men and women, as shaped by a rather outdated family breadwinner model, and a relatively gender-stereotypical range of qualifications, training and jobs; in addition, the factors that cannot be changed at municipal level, such as those outlined by the gender gap and outdated tax law.

At the level of the single parents themselves, it became apparent that the sometimes considerably stressful changes caused by separation and divorce absorb a (sometimes excessive) proportion of their own resources. Last but not least, stable family and institutional networks make it easier for single parents to cope with the many demands placed on them. Experiences with public authorities and agencies are highly relevant, as they can facilitate, enable or even impair the continuity of working life.

The recommendations for action successively developed in the research process follow the intention of presenting concrete measures that were gained either from the interviews or from other research or project reports as well as from the discussions in the research team.

The options for action focus on three relevant areas: reliable childcare, improved access to the world of work and, if necessary, the necessary stabilization of the single parents concerned. The recommendations for action were set out on four levels:

Individual actors: Those affected, helpers, mentors
Business Studies actors: Employers, chambers, trade associations and employment agencies/job centers
Institutional actors: Public authorities, offices
Social actors: Associations, trade unions, political parties, churches.

Local alliance for families in Schwerte

Contact & Team

Contact person and management

Prof. Dr. Marianne Kosmann

Notes and references

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