For a Government that is supposedly interested in courting the female vote, the Chancellor’s statement strikes a rather discordant note. While it has announced an extension of free nursery places for the two year olds in the most deprived families and rises in the childcare and disability elements of working tax credits, it has effectively cut tax credits across the board by freezing them at a time of rising inflation. Moreover, the news on the childcare element comes after it cut the amount parents can claim back from 80% to 70% in April so an inflation-linked rise seems like very small flat beer in comparison.
And while it is good news for very low paid parents to get free childcare for their two year olds, it is not a very long term solution to their childcare problems. After all, children do not stay two for that long…
In the past few months, we have been informed that the Government is haemorrhaging female votes. This has mainly been attributed to job cuts in the public sector and wage freezes [and now effective pay cuts if the 1% rise comes in and inflation stays high]. Other factors include cuts in public services which affect women more than men since they are still mainly the prime carers.
The Government has announced various what seem like hastily cobbled together plans for women business mentors, a pornography portal and plans for older girl siblings to be allowed to inherit the throne. Lovely. It appears to fail to grasp altogether what women actually want.
It harps on about the Big Society and it is becoming clearer by the day what it means by that. Women doing everything. If women can’t afford childcare, they will drop out of the workplace or, if they are lucky, get their parents [read that as mums] to do the childcare. There are whole armies of grandmothers looking after their grandchildren as parents patch together some sort of workable, vaguely affordable way of working. It’s not sustainable, especially if the retirement age is raised. How many 68 year olds are going to be able to look after two hectic toddlers for days on end? Don’t get me started on elder care, which is looming round the corner for many parents [mums] of small children.
So all in all the pressure of staying in the workforce is going to increase for women, yet the so-called business case for this is poor.
If these women are forced out of work and eventually come back into the workplace years later, it will probably be on much lower wages so they will pay less taxes. Where’s the sense in that? The Government says it wants to make work pay. It should put its money where its mouth is.