The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed something we have long suspected: middle-class families with children are becoming the ‘new poor’, with only half now living in a home of their own.
The one piece of good news is ‘the proportion of children living in a workless household fell from 23 per cent in 1993–94 to 13 per cent in 2014–15.’ James Bartholomew, author of The Welfare of Nations says, “the drop in workless households is an extraordinary achievement. Experience around the world – and I am thinking particularly of the USA, the Netherlands and Germany – has shown that it is extremely difficult to change the perverse incentives of a malfunctioning welfare system. Former Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and Lord Freud have done better than any previous post-war government.”
However, in its report the IFS found that “in key respects middle income families with children now more closely resemble poor families than in the past. Half are now renters rather than owner occupiers and, while poorer families have become less reliant on benefits as employment has risen, middle-income households with children now get 30 per cent of their income from benefits and tax credits, up from 22 per cent 20 years ago.”
This is an incredible expansion of the State. Who would have thought 20 years ago how dependent middle-income families would become on benefits? This is mainly due to the expansion of the tax credit system under Gordon Brown. The much-needed reform of this system was abandoned by George Osborne, one of many budgetary measures he had to dump during his tenure as Chancellor.
The other headline fact is the increase in maternal employment.
In the middle-income quintile of children in 1994–95 only 19 per cent of household income came from women’s employment, as opposed to 58 per cent from men’s employment. By 2014–15, the proportion from women had risen to 26 per cent and that from men had fallen to 43 per cent.
So it is clear that families are becoming more dependent on income from maternal employment, although we do not know if these employed mothers have pre-school children or children at school. The crucial aspect of this, however, is that despite the feminist bluster, and the huge push by the last government to get more mothers in work, fathers still bring in close to twice as much in terms of income than mothers, for this group. Men are still the primary breadwinners for the family, something for which they should be praised and not ridiculed.
In fact, it is a wonder so many men still sign up to the deal to be provider to their families, considering all the criticism they seem to endure for it. As I explained previously, only a society gone mad would advocate the idea that a man providing for their family is oppressive to women.
Finally, it is also worth noting that the IFS have examined household incomes when determining child poverty. This is in contrast to the feminist fixation with measuring the incomes of men against women. This obsession is dangerous in that it diverts focus away from income inequality between families and the children raised in those families.
For children, it is the household income that counts, not whether there is equal representation of women on company boards and indeed how much these elite women are paid. But on current form children raised in poor families and the men who provide for them simply cannot compete with the feminist narrative of oppression.
(Image: Ewan Munro)