George Osborne has spun his latest childcare policy, paid grand maternity and grand paternity leave, as family friendly. On the surface it looks sympathetic but don’t be fooled. Far from it. George’s latest ‘wheeze’ is but another nail in the coffin of traditional (and essential) family life and baby welfare.
It is not that young mums shouldn’t ask for or rely on their mother’s (or father’s) help. I am not saying that grandmas aren’t eager to give this.
What I am saying is that it should have nothing to do with the State or State incentives and the State should keep its fat nose out of it. The State should no more put pressure on grandma to take work leave than it should put pressure on mum not to.
Furthermore George’s shortsighted idea of ‘family friendly’ extends only to grandparents on the payroll. Neither the retired grandpa nor the voluntary worker grandma count. That they can’t benefit from the State’s largesse (or the largesse squeezed from businesses’ pocket) is a clue to this Government’s family values – or lack of them.
No, this is not about family but about crazy feminist equality ideology and feminist labour force theory recently proclaimed by Nicky Morgan. According to her: “Equalising women’s productivity and employment to the same level as men’s could add almost £600 billion to our economy, clearing a third of our national debt. And if all the women who wanted to work more hours worked just one extra hour each week, it would contribute 80 million more hours a year in productivity.”
Unsurprisingly, this has been dismissed by the Institute of Economic Affairs’s Philip Booth as utter tripe.
Mr Booth points out the obvious fact that 80 million hours of extra work does not increase productivity (productivity relates to the amount that is produced per hour, not the number of hours worked – indeed, working extra hours is likely to reduce productivity).
Morgan’s statement that, “We need to end this crippling waste of talent, encourage women to achieve their potential and, in doing so, maximise economic growth”, he says demonstrates the crass materialism of her argument. Too right.
Mr Osborne’s enthusiasm for forcing mums out to work suggests he shares some of her delusions, which, I suspect, lay behind his failed paternity leave initiative from which he has learnt nothing. Au contraire. Finding the majority of dads have resisted his kind offer to take ‘maternity’ leave in place of their wife’s or partner’s he has decided to try the same wheeze out on grandparents. When he finds this doesn’t work either, I wonder who he will target next? Maybe it will be society’s singles. Anyone or anything but a mum having taking time off work (or worse quitting) to look after her baby. That clearly is the rule.
This is madness but common sense no longer prevails in the modern progressive Tory world.
You’d laugh if it didn’t make you cry. The reality is tragic and ominous for social wellbeing. Motherhood is further diminished by the so called Party of the family, if not outright denied. The skills associated with motherhood and once valued are disappearing just as they already have in childcare dictatorships like Sweden. The proven needs of babies for their mothers in their most tender months, for breast feeding as opposed to pumped great milk, for intimacy and attachment, for language development and general well being) are all being ignored. Nature itself is negated.
I am not devaluing grandmas. Nor am I saying that grandma is not second best after mum – she often is. But she needs to be able to be grandma to her grandchild – a role in itself – not be forced to act as an elderly surrogate mum or be confused with mum. Doing both is a large demand. She may not feel up to it or indeed want it. She may already have big elderly care demands on her time and she may, being older as grandmas are today, lack the physical strength and stamina required of long baby daycare.
George Osborne also underestimates the potential for family conflict over this. Never the most sensitive or empathic of men, I doubt he understands the implications of competing ‘rights’ battles between daughters and their mothers, who may feel they are being asked sacrifice themselves – all over again.
The final irony is that all this could be avoided if Osborne would only stop being an honorary feminist and recognise that women in the workforce are not so much the answer to his low productivity conundrum as a cause of it.
Instead of all this complicated State intervention, Osborne should settle for straightforward family taxation reform, recognising marriage and responsibility for child rearing – making it possible for one parent (in most cases the mother) to be at home during the early years.
But that would assume he believes in the family. He doesn’t. He believes only in the individual and that is dangerous territory.