I didn’t need the latest Joseph Rowntree report to tell me that the traditional one-earner family is facing extinction.
Every conversation I’ve had with young couples recently – couples who’ve just married, had a baby, or are hoping to – confirms they feel they have no option but for both to work and for the mum to go back as soon as she possibly can. It’s a choice between that and penury.
It’s not that it is what they want to do, when I tentatively suggest that leaving a young baby in daycare is far from ideal for baby or mum, it’s that they simply don’t dare do otherwise. Two jobs are a must to pay their rent or mortgage, cover the bills and afford a child before it is all too late.
This dual-earning norm counts as a success for the Conservative Coalition, not a failure. Ministers are in hock to the feminists who believe this to be a good thing, advancing their great quest to take on men at every level and in every sphere.
It’s certainly the result of a massive public subsidy invested in their agenda in the form of working and child tax credits and childcare tax allowances (£2000 per child) to encourage this ‘dual fuel worker’ model. The plus for the Chancellor is a spurious increase in GDP.
Whether it is really what families and mothers want or think is best for their children matters not, nor do the long-term costs of the State’s social engineering. The ConLabLib feminists and male honorary feminists know what’s best.
The prize for the conforming two-earner couple is survival, a step to economic security, and to one child – maybe. Tax credits and child care subsidies, a generous childcare tax break, and the continuation of full child benefit if neither ‘partner’ earns more than £50,000 are the inducements. That’s on top of the two personal allowances they get before the basic rate which currently kicks in at £10,000 – making for £20,000 of untaxed income for them or their family.
Compare that with the position of the non-conforming one-earner couple family and the penalties they face for being social dinosaurs. Their one salary between them (and their children) secures just one tax-free allowance of £10,000. The measly sop of the transferable tax allowance, boosting family income by only £200 a year hardly deserves a mention.
Their child benefit is slashed too if their one earner has the audacity to earn above £50,000. It is removed completely at £60,000 grand. Nor can this couple claim a child tax allowance to match their dual-earning neighbours’ childcare tax allowance.
The full-time mum gets no fiscal recognition for her labours at all, even though her spouse’s taxes are subsidising the childcare allowance claimed next door. That’s despite the fact that she may have forgone not just her salary, but possibly the prospect of a higher paying career too.
Invisible elsewhere, the real value of this home-labouring mother can be deduced from ONS statistics designed to compute the value of ‘informal’ childcare which turns out to have an economic tag of £323 billion – equivalent to 23 per cent of GDP. This figure far exceeds any tax returns of working mothers.
But no need to let a little thing like that get in the way of good family-friendly policies. Not when staying at home to bring up your children yourself is just a lifestyle choice – in the words of our robotic Chancellor George Osborne. So its just tough if you want to make what Osborne and Nick Clegg deride as the 1950s choice.
Tough it certainly is proving to be as the Rowntree report shows for the ever decreasing number of one-earner families, the couples who’ve been gritting their teeth and battening down the hatches for some while now to secure the family life their children need.
With alarming rapidity government policy has done its worst. Five years ago there were already 38 per cent of such families struggling and below the minimum adequate income (MAI), as defined by Rowntree. Now 51 per cent of them – up 13 percentage points – are not just feeling the pinch but are below the MAI. The traditional family has suffered “the most drastic change in the chance of living below the minimum income standard”, the report found.
Maybe now the Government will see the error of its ways. Reading economist Professor Alison Wolf’s book The XX Factor might help it understand where it has gone so wrong.
Her thesis deserves ministers’ attention. This high-flying economist reckons, after serious research into labour force trends and changing family forms, that the Government’s family policies have been captured by middle-class feminists, a particularly selfish brand of feminism, used in pursuit of their elite self interest.
What comes over loud and clear from her analysis is that feminism, far from helping all women, has contributed to a further coming apart of our society in which marriage, large families and having the luxury of pursuing a career at the same time, have become the privilege of the few.
The prospect for everyone else is of ever-decreasing family size and ever more people with no child at all. Most disastrously, she says, in terms of welfare costs which are still sustained by the family, this heralds the collapse of intergenerational links. At the same time, huge childcare subsidies have made little discernible impact on the mass of working women.
What they have done for certain is drive the final nails into the coffin of the traditional family, thanks to our cooperative politicians.
It is not a legacy I would wish to bequeath if I were a Conservative Prime Minister or Chancellor.