The number of single parents in the North-East has risen dramatically.

New research carried out at Durham University for the GMB union shows that around a quarter of all household with children in Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland are now single parent households.

Between 1991 and 2001, the figure increased by 30 per cent in Newcastle, 43 per cent in Middlesbrough and 53 per cent in Sunderland.

Paul Kenny, GMB senior official, said: "These figures demonstrate the absolute necessity of employers adopting family friendly policies, such as job sharing, flexible working, help with childcare cost, to enable these lone parents to participate fully in the workforce."

He also called for more after school clubs and suggested childcare expenses should be made tax deductable for both employers and parents.

Nationally, the number of lone parent households rose by 90 per cent.

In the North-East, the biggest rise was in Northumberland at 92 per cent, followed by Darlington at 87.2 per cent.

The survey was one of two new studies, published for International Women's Day tomorrow shed new light on the relationship between work and the family in the North-East.

A separate survey, carried out by the Transport and General Workers' Union, showed that women in the region have to set aside nearly half their earnings just to pay for childcare. The research revealed that a working woman in the region needs to spend around 45.7% of her earnings just to pay for care for care for young children.

Conducted by the Labour Research Department for the TGWU, the survey also shows that women have to work an average 3.2 hours to pay for just one day at nursery.

Diana Holland, TGWU national organiser for women, race and equalities said: "These figures will come as no surprise to the thousands of families who struggle to make ends meet, but they should shock government and employers into action.

"Not only do these figures represent the spiralling cost of childcare to families but they also show how the gender pay gap makes it more difficult for women to afford childcare."