Tuesday, March 29, 2005

desperate non-wives

This is really starting to piss me off. On the one hand the Howard Government is always carping on about wanting women to have the option of being "stay-at-home mothers", but on the other hand, Howard is preparing to force single mothers back into the workforce, ready or not.
Why this discrimination against sole parents? They're doing just as important a job as married or partnered parents, aren't they? And (unlike me) many sole parents did not choose to be sole parents. I feel very sorry for people who are not only doing a difficult job on their own, but may also be suffering from the trauma of relationship breakdown at the same time.
Here's something Ross Gittins had to say about this subject the other day:

"Howard has greatly increased the family benefits paid to dependent wives to permit them to "choose" to stay at home with their children. These benefits are essentially independent of the extent of the husband's income. But in the coming budget we'll see the extent of the Government's renewed efforts to get mothers on the sole-parent pension back into the workforce where they belong.
What's the difference between the two classes of mum? The winners under the Howard changes are stay-at-home mothers with a husband to support them, who thus tend to have higher incomes; the losers are stay-at-home mothers without husbands, whose income is so low they need to be on a pension."

It seems really unfair to me. After all, people who have a partner are already much better off, not just financially or because they have help in raising the kids, but because of the emotional support and resilience provided by a loving relationship.
Sometimes you also hear related criticisms of people on the single parent pension, who are ostensibly "refusing" to enter into live-in relationships because they would be financially worse off since the new partner may earn less than the pension (hard to imagine that, but anyway). Here's an idea: maybe don't make it a disincentive to cohabit. Maybe don't take away people's pension as soon as they move in with someone else. Why not give the fledgling relationship a chance to develop first? Allow bonds to form, before a new partner is expected to support someone else's kids. "If I were PM"...hey, I'd let people live together for a year, or maybe even two, before taking away sole parent benefits and putting economic pressure on the new relationship. It's generally accepted wisdom that many relationships suffer and ultimately fail because of chronic economic stress. So why put that kind of pressure on new relationships, if the aim is to get people to partner up for the long term? Especially given that it has been noted that it's unskilled Australian men who are finding it hardest to find partners, because they just don't earn enough to support a family.