In yesterday’s blog, I suggested that when we get upset about levels of workplace discrimination we are perhaps, in various ways, looking at things the wrong way round. In today’s blog I want to explore alternative ways of really strengthening the economy, rather than simply increasing women’s entitlements at work.
MP Maria Miller uses discrimination figures to argue that we must give pregnant women more support and protection otherwise the economy will suffer. What she is really talking about is shifting more resources in the direction of women, this time directly from businesses, rather than the taxpayer. This will give even more control to women over their family lives, without asking for a concomitant increase in work.
Maria Miller sees this as protecting women when finances are tight. If we want to know why finances are tight, we need look no further than government policy itself.
By getting increasing numbers of women into the workplace, the government has succeeded in keeping real wages down. By a system of tax credits, the government has encouraged single earner households, breaking up families and encouraging women to go it alone. By providing an absolutely paltry marriage tax allowance while funding childcare, the government has forced women out to work.
One of the key pillars protecting maternity entitlements are the alleged risks to our economy if a woman’s employment position is not completely secure if she becomes a mother. However, why do we place so much focus on keeping mothers in employment? For there are swathes of the population, who rather than being constructively engaged when not employed, incur overall costs when we ignore their needs for work.
Britain has more teenage dropouts than any other developed nation, and a disproportionate number of these will be boys. Fewer boys than girls are leaving school with 5 good GCSEs, with the eventual result that 35 per cent more girls go to university. If this differential carries on unchecked, girls born this year will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than their male peers. This hails to a future where the vast majority of men are unemployed and women are the ones going to work.
And no, these men will not be at home looking after the babies – the ambition of the feminist dream. Male unemployment leads directly to increases in single parenthood and the huge costs which this incurs. It also leads to ever increasing rates of incarceration as men rebel against a society which has no place for them.
Would it not make more sense to think about the skills and education of this section of the potential workforce who not only incur much more significant costs when unemployed but who also – because they do not need to take time off work for their periods, their IVF treatments, their pregnancy or their lactation – have the potential to provide better value at work?
We have made great strides in terms of workplace flexibility and this enables mothers to be employed. I welcome these changes as a positive form of progress and there is much that should not be reversed.
However, there is another side of the story and this needs to be heard. Employers, business partners and owners need to stand up to the women’s lobby which is ever on the lookout out for accruing financial resources for its sex. Your businesses support your employees, and their families, they give young people fantastic opportunities and they support the needy through their contribution to tax. Nine times out of ten, looking after your business interests means supporting expectant mothers and those with children. However, sometimes it does not.
During times of economic transition, we need our small businesses more than ever, and our families. We need to hear your side of the story. Let’s start this dialogue here.