Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Laura Perrins: Women work more but families are no better off. Can an economist explain why?


(Laura was on Woman’s Hour today helping the sisters celebrate 150 years of feminism)

I read a Times report a little while ago that said this: “The household sector is pushing itself into debt faster than at any point since at least 1990. Domestic balance sheets are nursing bigger deficits than before the crisis and bigger than immediately preceding either of the last two housing slumps. Having paid off some of their debt in the wake of the recent crisis, families are now borrowing again with abandon.

“The real problem facing the UK economy is that productivity — the amount of income generated per hour worked — is too low. The weaker productivity is, the less money there is to go round and the less affordable that mountain of household debt starts to look

In sum, households are borrowing and increasing their debt while productivity – the amount of income generated per hour worked — is too low.

This struck me as strange. We are told now day after day how many more women are working, mothers even with preschool children, hell mothers with infants under one are doing paid work – something that was relatively rare until the last 5-10 years. Yet here we all are drowning in household debt and stagnating productivity.

It is true I am no economist, but I do feel duty bound to ask if all of this was such a good idea? I don’t mean working women per se. It is true that with longer life spans and a vastly different economy, women are going to be working for the majority of their lives, but mothers with young children – why are they working if neither their families nor the economy are better off? We know there is no benefit to the kids but few seem to care about that.

Now, you say, but Laura, you see, household debt would be even worse and productivity even more sluggish if was not for the great working mother, so hop to it and get out there. Sure, you could say that and it could be true, we need the wonks to figure it all out. But I am just not convinced. I really am not.

I am not because when I look around (and I am sorry to be a bit of traitor here) I have noticed many of these working mothers work in the civil service where productivity is a bit very sluggish indeed. I am sorry but I have just experienced too many first-hand stories where women join the civil service and then promptly go on maternity leave. Now, I can understand that, hell sometimes I am jealous of it, but it does not make the spreadsheet look very good.

I even know of a mother who was hired to cover a maternity leave position who then got pregnant. So that department will need to find cover for the maternity leave cover of maternity leave cover. I kid you not.

The truth is the whole equality and diversity agenda is damaging the economy. What we need is efficiency and effectiveness and I don’t care what gender you are or indeed what race. In fact I implore all readers to boycott the section of the questionnaire that asks you for your ethnicity should you ever come across one again.

You should be hired on your ability alone. That is it.

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