Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mrs. Shanahan on discouraging stay-at-home married mothers while encouraging stay-at-home unwed mothers

Mrs. Angela Shanahan had an interesting column in last Saturday's edition of The Weekend Australian. Here are some excerpts:

Almost 30 per cent of Australian children are born out of wedlock, mostly to 20-something single mums. Many never marry and will probably be reliant on income support for large chunks of their lives.

[...] The flip side of the growing number of ex[tra-?]nuptial births is the so-called marriage gap, the modern phenomenon in which girls who have tertiary education and are generally ambitious are the ones who are getting married. This is unlike the past when the home-centred, less educated 20-somethings would have married and had children. In fact most tertiary-educated women are married by the time they are 30 and try to have the first child quickly because their window of fertility is fast narrowing. Importantly, the marriage gap has resulted in two classes of mothers: those who are married and live in stable relationships and those who aren't and probably don't.

There has been optimism that the divorce rate has levelled off, a good thing because it means fewer of those women now marrying will end up single mothers. However, the marriage rate is plummeting, so there will be a disproportionate number of children on the bottom end of the economic scale.

This is, and will continue to be, a huge drain on the welfare system. According to The Australian's social affairs writer Stephen Lunn, women receive two-thirds of income-support payments -- mostly parenting payments -- and in the future a disproportionate number will not have partners. Government and the opposition should start thinking about the consequences of this.

In his book Battlelines Tony Abbott states the disproportionate numbers of children in the bottom income deciles are the reason behind his maternity leave push: get the people at the top of the tree to have more kids.Unfortunately, we will need a lot more than maternity leave for the ones at the top to fix this problem because the disproportionate exnuptial birthrate at the bottom end of the economic spectrum will make the figures on children in poverty only worse.

There is another part of this seesaw. Larger stable families in the middle who in the past could have had long periods living on a single income can no longer afford to do so. They are taxed as individuals. The so-called family tax benefit part B has been means-tested and there is no real taxation relief for these families, let alone the kinds of freebies that come with a social security card.

[...] However, no one has thought of any way to substantially alleviate the problems of tax disadvantage with which families have to cope. It seems that luring more middle-income mothers into the workforce is all they can think of. But a second income is often a much resented necessity and not always the career choice it is portrayed as.

[...] Meanwhile, the welfare problem is huge and it's going to get bigger. So it is not a case of the married stay-at-home mums v the salaried mums that are the two great blocks of women in two different family types, as is often portrayed in the one-track ideology of the media mentality.

It is the single, welfare-dependent mothers who will never marry and the rest; one group supporting another.

Abbott emphasises that married middle-class women should be able to work and have more children. But the taxes of those married mums forced to work are paying for a growing number of children of single mums.

[my square-bracketed interpolations]
Reginaldvs Cantvar

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Angela Shanahan is a gem.