Rewriting ‘child poverty’ (1 of 2)

by Robert Whiston

The poor will always be with us” to paraphrase a passage from St Matthew’s gospel. This sadly is the realistic if brutal assessment of life and of all societies throughout history.

For as long as mankind has organised itself in civilisations there have always been the rich and wealthy rubbing shoulders with the poor.

What can and should be addressed are the absolute levels of poverty ? This is what the present as well as previous governments have attempted to alleviate. Indeed, in a free market economy, is it a legitimate function of government ?

In Nov 2012 a ‘Public Consultation’ was begun by the DWP  [1] into the subject of  child poverty and the proper way of measuring  it. During that summer the Government had announced it would consult on developing better measures of child poverty which would include not just family incomes but material deprivation, worklessness, unmanageable debt, poor housing, parental skill level, access to quality education, parental health and family stability.

These are now termed “multi-dimensional” measures by the Civil Service (as compared with the income focused DWP report, “Measuring child poverty”, 2003 ( http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/final-conclusions.pdf). In so doing it was hoped that the present 2012 Green Paper would provide, post 2013, results of a more accurate nature regarding the reality of child poverty.

Child poverty is not without significant financial costs to the tax-payer in any welfare state. The benefits claimed by low-income families and non-family units, i.e. lone mothers or SMHs, is the veil hiding child poverty:

  • “Between 2005 and 2009 (the years when the child poverty rate remained broadly flat) the Government spent over £300 billion in working-age welfare and tax credits . .. . . In 2009/10 alone, £90 billion was paid out in welfare payments to working-age people and their families – the same spend as the entire education budget.”

 In times of economic recession and with austerity polices in place it makes sense to see what can be trimmed and how from such an inflated budget.

Revolutionary

In a “ . . the emperor has no clothes . . “ moment, it has dawned on the intelligentsia that conventional economic theory with its equilibrium graphs of  supply, demand and price, is missing a vital component namely that of banks and the role they play in supply and demand.

This fatal omission is only now coming to light as orthodox economic theories fail to get the economies of the West moving once again.

Supply_demandLeft: Orthodox economic theory: The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product. But no where are banks, money supply and or credit mentioned.

Similarly, previous papers on poverty and living standards etc, have all contained the fatal omission of the father and the married man who are recognised in all other academic endeavours as being the “engines of wealth creation”.

Therefore the present DWP re-assessment of child poverty is surely the most far-reaching for its inclusion – even emphasis – of the role of fatherhood and family given by any modern government and its impact on families where they are included or excluded or missing for whatever reason. Previous Reports into child poverty totally omitted the “F”word – father – and ignored their influence on a family’s fortunes, ie ‘outcomes’.

As to why this is most significant one has to turn to the experiences of the Negro family in the USA.

In 1890, just 25 years after the end of the Civil War, 80% of black American households were headed by husbands and wives. In 1900, the percentage was mostly unchanged, and so it remained – between the high 70s and the low 80s – for 1910, 1920, 1930 for all the 10-yearly Census returns.[2]

However, all that changed in the Census of 1970, when it was fell to 64%. By the time of the 2000 Census, the percentage of black families headed by married couples had halved and was only 38%.

The same 2000 Census showed that only 69% of all American children were born into two-parent households compared to 65% for Hispanics and 77% for whites.

The received wisdom is that the advent of welfare payments during the 20th century gave rise to a ‘dependency culture’ and the qualifying requirements meant that a husband or male cohabitee was a bar to accessing these financial benefits. TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), deployed in 1996, was preceded in America by ‘AFDC’ which dated from 1935. The unintended consequences of AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children),was that because the programme’s ‘aid’ was paid only to families with no father was living in the house it prompted low-income poor families to separate in order to qualify. [3]

Introduced as a basic benefit which was supposed to address poverty it actually made the problem of fatherless dependent children worse. Instead of driving down poverty it instead drove out the male partner thus lowering family incomes and promoted the double tragedy for children of social disintegration and accentuated class divisions.[4]

Watts_riots

Left: The Watts Riots of August 1965. Watts is a district in Los Angeles. A state and era also giving rise to the Black Panthers, an Afro-American organisation, circa 1967 to 1977.

With payments dependent on having no father present cogent intellectuals arguments had inadvertently incentivised the dispossession of many low-income fathers, mostly Black Americans. This left children to grow up without a father present and resulted in poorer outcomes, at school, behaviourally and at work.

As recently as 2011, Frank Field MP, in a BBC ‘Panorama’ programme came to the conclusion about modern fathers and child support, that; [5]

  •  “The benefits system and high unemployment rates among young men means that they can walk away from their partner and children.“

 However, one has to be careful not to ber too casual in the terminology – ‘walk away’ of pushed away by the family court system ?

From a 1834 “Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Operation of the Relief of the Poor” (p. 170), we learn that the Commission found:

  • “The allowance made to the mother for the support of her child and secured to her by the parish in case of the putative father failing to pay the amount awarded is an encouragement to the offence it places such women in a better situation than many married women whatever may be the number of children.”  – Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Operation of the Relief of the Poor (1834), p 170 

Recent past

Child poverty as a stand-alone agenda item was on the political radar as early as the 1990s when figures, released by the DWP (Dept. for Work and Pensions), showed that for the first time since Tony Blair arrived in Downing Street in 1997 the number of children in poverty has gone up. This despite Labour pledges to halve the figure and even using the Government’s favoured measure. One of Labour’s key promises at the 1997 General Election was to halve child poverty by 2011. Persistent slippages prompted in turn a National Strategy, a Child Poverty Strategy, and even a Child Poverty Bill

  • In 1997, there were 3.4 million children in families whose income was below 60% of the median income – the mid-point on the scale of wealth – before they paid the cost of their housing.[6]
  • By 2005 the number of children living in poverty had fallen to 2.7 million as Labour’s tax credit benefits system poured billions of pounds into encouraging single mothers to take jobs.
  • One year later, in 2006, however, that figure rose again to 2.8 million. The increase meant that the 1.7 million level that was Labour’s target, and was to have been achieved in 2011, looked well beyond its reach.
  • By 2004 the Government’s revised target of eradicating child poverty by 2020 was also likely to be missed unless at least another £6.8bn was spent said campaigners.

So while we all very much welcome the present government’s announcement to tackle child (and thereby household) poverty, which we see as positive, we doubt if the Consultation process, or any steps thereafter, will signal a quote; “ending to child poverty.” Indeed, in a time of austerity can we economically afford to eliminate it by government subsidies ?

Where we are all in lock-step with government of all hues is the need to better understand and define what is poverty and what are the realities of those who experience it.

There may be others who know the remedy and can see clearly the path ahead but our attitude is that no one a single remedy or path will achieve a cure for the dozens of policy decisions that have brought us to this pretty pass.

Without doubt the greatest single failing of the last decade has been the lack of “social mobility” which has ground to a halt. One only has to compare the impact “Assisted Places” had during the Thatcher era.

There are commentators well qualified to steer government in the direction of a).  a better measurement of child poverty and b). a more accurate picture of child poverty, but it is the first that we believe should be the focus because to measure something one has to first define.

The problems with child poverty are not related simply to the multi-dimensional aspects noted above but are embedded in historical ones as well. This historical context has been all but ignored by mainstream policies makers for over 50 years.

Historical context

It was George Gilder, in the 1970s and the 1980s who first pinpointed poverty as located in primarily in households where no father was present. He brought it to the attention of the mass media and demonstrated that the father and the married couple were the engine of a nation’s wealth creation.

However, it was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who 10 years earlier, in Jan 1964, had lent his intellectual and political weight to these conclusions (ref. ‘War on Poverty’ and ‘The Great Society’).

Moynihan_Left: Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Dem)

Moynihan (b. 1927 – d. 2003), specialised in family and welfare policies and was never far from controversy. He co-wrote a controversial report ‘The Negro Family’ better known as the ‘Moynihan Report’, which attributed the educational problems of African-Americans to the instability of urban African-American families. His research team took inspiration from the book ‘Slavery’ written by Stanley Elkins who contended that slavery had made black Americans dependent on the dominant society, and that their dependence still existed a century later. In the words of S. Craig Watkins:

  • The report concluded that the structure of family life in the black community constituted a ‘tangle of pathology…capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world,’ and that ‘at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time.’ Further, the report argued that the matriarchal structure of black culture weakened the ability of black men to function as authority figures. This particular notion of black familial life has become a widespread, if not dominant, paradigm for comprehending the social and economic disintegration of late twentieth-century black urban life. (pp.218-219).

Such an assessment can never hope to be comprehensive and timeless but as a product of its time and reflecting the uniqueness of US social and cultural values, it was ground braking and many elements are as valid today as they were 50 years ago.

UNICEF ranking

Forty years later, in 2007, a study released by UNICEF ranking the top 21 wealthiest countries in the world showed the United States rated as the second worst ranking (20 out of 21), in terms of their children’s well-being.[7]  The United States also received the second worst ranking (20 out of 21), citing divorce and the number of children being raised in single-parent households as major risk factors.

Some 24 million children in the United States now live without one of their biological parents. Virtually every social pathology of our time – from violent crime to substance abuse to truancy – correlates more strongly to fatherless homes than to any other single factor, surpassing poverty and race.

Britain did no better. In 2007 a UNICEF report branded the UK as the worst country in the developed world in terms of children’s sense of their own well-being. The Children’s Commissioner, Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, warned of a “crisis at the heart of our society” in the way children are treated by adults. But that is not the complete answer – it is more to do, we feel, with the way the state treats adults and parents in particular. [8]

Anastasia de Waal, of the think-tank Civitas, shared our assessment. She said in 2007 that “ . . . we rank so poorly as a rich welfare state [and the worlds fourth biggest trading nation] is an indictment of Government policy.

For his part the Children’s Commissioner devised a plan entitled “11 Million” (a reference to the number of children in England) and selected youth justice, anti-social behaviour, asylum and trafficking, mental health and enjoying education as the key issues facing young people. In other words, serious social problems that ‘New Labour’ wasn’t addressing.” [9] Perhaps this was the foundation of the 2012 “multi-dimensional” measure of child poverty.

From 1998 to 2010 the British government policy has been compromised by a cabinet that has been divided against itself over the value of marriage as a concept. A headline in the Daily Telegraph of March 11th 2002 read, “Marriage too risky for Cabinet to support”.

Such uncertainty has meant no policy endorsing family formation and thus a fall in the birth rate has not only been induced but then left unaddressed. Only now are the ramifications and collateral damage being comprehended re: pensions, old age care, curtailment of consumerism, low economic demand etc. This realisation has burst upon some politicians as if they were discovering their own puberty.

Spurred on by the bleak assessment of childhood poverty, ministers in 2007 produced a ten-year Children’s Plan aimed at improving children’s lives and preventing problems before they arise. This brings us to the present day revamping of 2012 to improve UK child poverty.

Both the Clinton and Bush administrations devised programmes to “promote fatherhood” and “healthy marriage” which were of questionable merit. If some in the US have criticised these US responses as being too “weak” or open to the charge of “throwing money at the problem”  at least the US did try. In the UK the problem of excluded fathers was not even recognised until 2012.

The Monetary Problem

Having outlined the historical background and the past political promises it is appropriate to deal with contemporary issues.

For far too long the focus of policies has been almost exclusively on the ‘income’ aspect of problem. The result of this created poverty as a ‘moveable feast’. By closely linking it to 60% of ‘average’ or median earnings the elimination of poverty was by its very definition going to be impossible to achieve.

Why 60% was chosen and why a percentage of median earnings were chosen is another story that will have to wait for another day. Surely it would make more sense to set something in stone and for it to be objectively measured, e.g. the minimum wage which is set at, say, £6.50 rather then 25% of average earnings.

DWP statistics show that the median (average) household income of the population is £419 a week, and for a couple with two children aged between 5 and 14 equates to £641 per week (page 19).

The fact is that all 4 measures used to measure poverty in government circles were based on one of these criterion:

  1. Relative income: household income less than 60% of current median income
  2. Combined low-income and material deprivation: children who experience material deprivation and live in households with incomes less than 70% of current median income
  3. Absolute income: household income less than 60% of 2010/11 median income adjusted for prices, and,
  4. Persistent poverty: household income less than 60% of current median income for at least three out of the previous four years.

The 2012 Green Paper breaks with that tradition and asks whether alternative criteria should not be used. It points out that June 2012 figures actually showed that 300,000 fewer children were recorded as being in ‘relative income poverty’ but that this was a function of a downturn in economy, not any enhancement in their position (page 19).

The disadvantage with the historical way of assessing poverty is that, firstly, it does not incentivise those who are unemployed or are under-employed. Those on benefits or low incomes; are lulled into believing that they can always get a ‘top-up’ from government or will qualify for additional state benefits.

Secondly, it acts as a disincentives and demoralises those on low incomes who work a 40 hour week in full employment or have two part-time jobs. Such people see what they perceived as the stay-at-home “work shy” actually ending each week with more disposable income than they have after working for over 40 hours.

Thirdly, this behaviour is wasteful not only of scarce government revenues but of human capital.

The Reasons

One then has to ask ‘Why are low incomes still so widespread ?’ Is it linked with ‘globalisation’ and simply poor education levels ?

Certainly the way the UK earns a living has changed from foundries, factories and tangible exports of 30 years ago, to one of call centres and what used to be termed ‘invisibles’ i.e. insurance and banking.

What is now revealed is that real incomes in the West have been suppressed with no increase in actual purchasing power since the year 2000. Inflation and commodity/food price increases have offset any nominal gains.

As if predicting the fall and decline of the welfare state in the West acclaimed welfare reform, Charles Murray proposed in 2006 abolishing all welfare schemes and instead giving every adult in the country a flat £6,000 a year – bankers, single parents, college dropouts and pensioners get the same.

With the banking collapse, post 2008, and the drying up of consumer lead demand plus the sucking out of jobs to the Far East an intellectual framework to avoid ‘welfare traps’ is desperately needed. [10]

‘Welfare traps’ can be likened to a spiral into squalor and one of the most infamous is at Easterhouse in Glasgow (Scotland). By 2006 Glasgow’s schemes stood out on a world scale because so much has been spent to alleviate poverty but with calamitous results. The cash, meant to end poverty, instead created jobless, drug-infested ghettos with dire life expectancy.

Charles Murray believed that while the middle class can afford to be ‘liberal’ about family break-up with resultant  lone parents usually having the money and family support needed, this trend (i.e. divorce) for the working class is wreaking catastrophic damage on the poorest reaches of society (the Green Paper states page 40, that 15% of couple households moved into “persistent income poverty” as a result of family breakdown).

Twenty years prior Murray, an academic, was hired to monitor US government benefit schemes proved a theory which sounded incredible: welfare was making poverty worse. Welfare payments were made in the main to divorced and never-wed mothers. This was a discovery which changed the way America looked at poverty and provoked numerous attacks by left-wing academics who commissioned studies to prove him wrong, only to find him right.

Fathers groups were trying to alert government of these very matters several years before. For instance, in June 2000 a letter was sent to Bridget Ogden of the CAFCASS Project Team, Lord Chancellor’s Dept stating:

  • “We are, if nothing else, concerned with children. We are concerned with how they cope with divorce and or separation; losing one, or both, parents; going through the trauma of court and being interviewed by well-meaning but nonetheless total strangers for reasons they don’t (and can’t) fully comprehend.  We are concerned with their quality of life, the poverty they may fall into after separation; their low educational achievement, poor school attendance, criminality, and, in the case of girls, their early pregnancy out-of-wedlock, which is so vexing the Gov’t at present.” – 20/06/00, letter to Mrs. Bridget Ogden, CAFCASS Project Team, Lord Chancellor’s Dept.

Defenders of no-fault divorce were once keen to point out that a woman bringing up a family on their own was nothing new. The death of the main ‘bread winner’ in the Victorian era, they claimed, once plunged 40% of families into poverty and that today it was equally no-fault divorce that jeopardises plunging 40% of families into unexpected poverty. In other words the same proportion, just a different reason.

Changes in the 2012 paper

Having followed for many years the key trends associated with “worklessness” and poverty, i.e. unemployment, duration of unemployment, marital status, housing type, number of dependent children aged under 16, the cost of benefits on the low-income earner etc, it seemed Whitehall would never acknowledge or tackle these realities.

But surprisingly the 2012 Paper has broken with the past and has recognised that currently around 3.9 million workless households in the UK – that is almost one in five of all households.

  • “Since 1996, the number of UK households where no-one has ever worked has more than doubled from 132,000 to 297,000 – ie 1.4% of all households”
  • “There are 1.8 million children living in workless households.”

 And for the first time ‘fathers’ feature as part of the solution and not part of the problem. Married couples are still despite media coverage, the preeminent family household type.

Additionally, other family factors are taken into account as impinging on child poverty. The paper lists these as including:

  1. Between 250,000 and 350,000 children in Great Britain have parents who are problem drug users.
  2. 22% of under 16 year olds in the UK (over 2.5 million children) live with a hazardous drinker (a hazardous drinking is defined as a pattern that increases the risk of harmful consequences to the user or others).
  3. 4% of under 16 year olds in the UK (approximately half a million children) live with a problem drinker who also has a coexisting mental health condition.

And at page 13 there was a recognition that increasing education attainment is by itself not enough and that the amount of both ‘basic’ and ‘higher’ level job skills in the economy, ie the more manual and less cerebral, needed to be addressed urgently.

Thus there was the recognition that there was a danger of leaving or overlooking a rump of lowly educated or unemployable young people who would persistently be claiming benefits.

Putting talents people in the right jobs to increase productivity and innovation is, by comparison, a much easier aim (page 13).

Interestingly, a Money Saving Expert poll, in 2012, found that 62% of respondents thought that having a family income below the relative poverty line does not count as poverty – which would seem to indicate either other factors creating poverty or an income floor set much lower. One suggested solution is to have an objective measure based on a ‘basket of commodities’ rather than a percentage of income.

On a brighter side, whereas there was once 2 million children in 2000 currently growing up in families where no one works this had declined to 1.75 million children by 2012. [11]

However, 55% of children in workless families are in the bottom 20% of incomes (the bottom 10% – the real poverty – is again omitted from Gov’t papers),

‘Eurostats’, an EU wide collation of comparable national data indicates that in 2011 about 11% of children, in the EU-2542 population category, lived in workless households. But in the UK the proportion was 17% and was the second highest.

We get only a glimpse of the bottom 10% of incomes (on page 32), where it states that there is evidence for wage persistence. If a worker begins his/her career in a low-paying job, he/she is very likely to stay in a low-paying job. [12] Data showed that 60% of the bottom 10% of earners in 2001/02 were among the bottom 30% of earners in 2008/09.

It has been unfashionable for over 2 decades and an excuse to launch sexist criticisms to suggest the very non-PC idea that male employment should take priority. Yet the 2012 Paper bravely highlights that:

  • “boys who grow up in workless households are up to 25% more likely to be unemployed as adults than boys whose fathers were in work as they grew up.”

Since mothers and single unwed mothers represent only a minority of the unemployed workforce it is clear that father unemployment among married and cohabiting couples must take precedence to stave of a rising number of the next generation also being welfare dependents.

For many years the magic number for working single mothers (inc. divorcees) was 16 hours. At that level they still were able to claim basic benefits and retain the wage to boost their incomes. However, the Green Paper points out that almost 25% children living in lone parent families (where the parent worked less than 16 hours a week) experienced ‘persistent overcrowding’. This compares with only 10% of children where the lone parent worked 16 hours or more.

In addition, 10% of all children in ‘couple families’, where both parents worked less than 16 hours a week, experienced inadequate heating on a persistent basis, compared with just 2% of children in couple families where at least one parent worked at least 16 hours a week (page 31).

The Missing Fathers

Fifty percent of the adult population – fathers – has been systematically marginalized, pushed away and penalized from having any meaningful, on-going relationship and care with their children.

This has been society’s choice, not theirs. Yet they are expected to continue funding a regime that is hostile to them and persecutes them in every conceivable way.

There are simply no incentives to encourage men and fathers back into families or to take a responsible stance towards families because they know they will be penalised – economically and emotionally – for doing so.

It is interesting to note that former New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg (a billionaire divorced dad and founder of “Bloombergs”), said in Aug 2007 that “unwed fathers increase poverty and the government should take steps to get them back with their families.” [13] It was part of a speech outlining his prescription for fighting poverty in which he said:

  • “Fathers have been missing from the table.
  • We have to do more to connect fathers to jobs and to their families.”

Bloomberg, who knows a thing a two about financial matters, said that welfare reform in the 1990’s was driven largely by pushing single poor mothers into the workforce, but that:

  • “. . .  to further reduce poverty, government must now turn its attention to fathers by withholding tax refunds from those who don’t pay child support and increasing tax credits for low-income parents.”

Unfortunately, in the UK Gordon Brown as Chancellor long ago abolished any tax concession for payments to spouses of children. Tax credits have never been available to fathers and under Labour all state benefits an only be paid to mothers, never men.

Bloomberg’s vision would see  a broadening of  eligibility for the ‘earned income tax credit’ (termed  EITC in the US), and the mayor would make more single tax filers eligible for the credit, raising the income ceiling for the credit from $12,000 a year to $18,000 (politicians in the UK have yet to become this visionary !).

Further, he also called for an end to the so-called “marriage penalty” for the credit, which offers less money to married people than single parents (there are parallels here with the UK regimen of welfare benefits). Making those changes, Bloomberg argues, would push more low-income fathers back to their families, resulting in less poverty.

The logic is overwhelming – all that is required, and here is the rub, is a break with the received wisdom, the conventional orthodoxy.

The Gillard effect

In contrast to the enlightened approach of Bloomberg we see in Australia a resumption of oppression. Despite the 2006 liberalisation of child custody laws. Hundreds of parents, both fathers and mothers, are still fleeing overseas owing millions of dollars in child support. [14]

Rudd_gillard-illoIn total there are 22,529 [Australian] parents living overseas collectively owing $142.2 million in child support, with most in the UK, New Zealand and the US.

Following the 2006 changes, 2008 saw a sharp rise with 14,000 parents dodging $97 million by living overseas. The use of the controversial ‘Department Prohibition Orders’ issued against those not paying CS has recently been curtailed with 1,351 of the orders issued in the two years to July 2009 (and in the past financial year, 2010, only 183 departure prohibition rulings were made).

More pointedly this also reflects is the world-wide economic downturn. Departure Prohibition Orders totaled only 80 new cases in 2007-08 and 121 new orders in 2008-09. Family law experts have linked the rise to the soaring costs of living, economic uncertainty and increasingly bitter custody disputes. [15]  Peter Magee head of Armstrong Legal, said this was particularly the case among wealthy separated parents relying on overseas income who were now struggling:

  • “I have been involved in cases where someone has entered into a child support agreement during prosperous times but then times change and the $25,000 a month the mother wanted is no longer possible.”

Meanwhile, Dads for Kids spokesman, Warwick Marsh, said anticipation of the review of the 2006 shared parenting laws might have influenced courts to become more active against fathers, adding:

  • “It is strange because divorces have been going down but it is sad that the worst cases are going up.” [16]

The Child Support Registrar “grounded” 471 parents last financial year – up from 294 in 2010/11 and 183 the year before. Parents paid $4.2m in overdue child support to have the bans lifted. [17]

And just to contradict Gillard’s allegations and vitriol that shared parenting is dangerous, unworkable awkward, clumsy and clogging up the courts etc, etc, we learn that overall the average debt in child-support cases where both parents live in Australia has fallen from about $4,800 in July 2010 to about $4,600 in April 2011. [18]  This fall has prompted the Gillard government to declare it is “breaking the back of the problem” of parents neglecting their financial obligation to children – or is it a by-product of introducing ‘shared parenting’ ?

 

Unintended policy results

 Once, in the 1950’s, a ‘working man’ on average industrial wages would pay no income tax. Today that same working man probably pays 37% of his income in tax.

The same working man, whatever his actual weekly income, was enabled to have enough disposable income to feed a family. This, just in case a younger generation is reading this submission, was the ‘family wage’.  This meant that whatever station in life the husband held within society he was able to provide a roof, heating, food and the basics in life comparable to that station.

The Equal Pay Act, and subsequent attendant legislation, though laudable for many reasons, destroyed that regime and forced both parents to go out to work to maintain their Standard of Living (SOL).  Proposals such as those made by Bloomberg would be illegal and never see the light of day.

In a seemingly unrelated areas we find that if governments acts to facilitate, say, divorce and the population responds by divorcing in greater numbers, who is to blame for a). the higher number and b). the resulting wider level of poverty, in what should be an ever increasingly affluent society ?

Measures to rectify the level of long-term male unemployment were unpopular 20 years ago. To promote anything other than greater female participation in the labour market was politically incorrect. But the writing was on the wall as far back as 1991 and our responses to government showed the long-term male unemployment (running at doule and treble that of female unemployment) as an issued that had to be addressed.

Long-term male unemployment was persistently greater than that of women who could easily disappear from the labour market by being re-absorbed into the family household. Such an option is/was not available to men and fathers.

Male employment is characterised by the ability and preparedness to work long hours work in more physically dangerous environments in order to bring home a wage sufficient for his family’s needs, e.g. north see oil rigs, deep-sea trawlers etc.

Female employment is generally characterised by being more opportunistic and susceptible to social pressures and school timetables.

The above characteristics of male and female employment reflect the majority of the population and do not apply to high-flyers who might be expected to represent between 5% and 20% of the work force – and in any event would not be the subject of this poverty review.

Yet it is to this highly organised minority that legislation invariably panders. But just how critical is it for Society’s survival  in the present economic recession, to repeatedly put this minority above all others ?

 E N D

 


 

[1] DWP, Dept for Work and Pensions.
 
[2] “Poverty and the Father Factor”, by William Raspberry, The Washington Post, 1 August 2005. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/31/AR2005073101075.html

[3] Receipt of AFDC  (Aid to Families with Dependant Children) is 1,700% more frequent among illegitimate children of never married mothers than among legitimate children raised by intact married couples. Source: Robert Rector, US Congress. [ AFDC – UK equiv. is Income Support]. http://www.house.gov/ways_means/humres/106cong/6-29-99/6-29rect.htm

[4] A similar result can be seen in the adoptionof the Finer Report during the 1970s in the UK

[5] “Feckless father cannot remember children’s names” BBC Panorama, 17 January 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9362000/9362089.stm

[7] It cited divorce and the number of children being raised in single-parent households (SMH) as major risk factors. http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=David+Bickford%3A+A+real+family-friendly+policy+all+politicians+should+support&articleId=3580b95b-afd5-4075-a4a8-8e8be62fdd67

[8]England ‘one of the worst places for children’, Daily Telegraph, May 17th  2007 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/05/17/nkids17.xml

[9] ‘British youngsters get worst deal, says UN’, By Sarah Womack, Daily Telegraph, 15/02/2007. Except for   Britain, Unicef found youngsters were better off overall in every other industrialised country, including less wealthy nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic. The UK lags behind in other areas, e.g.  the number of children living in relative poverty, vaccination rates etc. Broken families indicate lower household incomes and Unicef predicts by 2010 there will be more children living in a step-family than in their biological family, i.e. poverty in the UK set to increase http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/14/nteens14.xml

[10] “Poverty of thought condemns the poor”, by Fraser Nelson, Scotland on Sunday, 16 April 2006
http://news.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=576972006. See also “In Our Hands” by Charles Murray.

[11] Office for National Statistics (2012) “Working and Workless Households 2012” ONS Bulletin.

[12] Sissons, P. (2011) ‘The Hourlass and the Escalator: Labour market change and mobility’. The Work Foundation.

[13] Bloomberg: Unwed Fathers Boost Poverty, by DEVLIN BARRETT Associated Press Writer, Tuesday August 28, 2007. http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6881895,00.html

[14] “Parents owing welfare support flee overseas”, by Anna Caldwell,  The Courier-Mail,  April 24th  2011 http://www.news.com.au/money/money-matters/parents-owing-welfare-support-flee-overseas/story-e6frfmd9-1226044203878#ixzz2OPd1zU6v

[15] “Deadbeat parents try to fly the coop”  by Patrick Lion, The Daily Telegraph, Dec 29th 2011

[16] 187,000 or 25% of the 722,430 parents required to pay former partners child support failed to fulfill their obligations in 2010-11.

[17] “Hundreds of parents banned from overseas travel over unpaid child support”   by Natasha Bita, National Social Editor, News Limited Network, Oct 20th 2012

[18] “Dads owe less in child support” by Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, July 10, 2012

**

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