Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Last December the Dalai Lama spoke about the ‘Power of Women’. He welcomed the rise in ‘women’s power’ in the West generally – also in Japan. However, not in the sense that feminists might wish to view this power – as some kind of revenge for years of having to submit to male domination, but for their sensitivity.
There is little doubt that males, particularly white, have seen legislation introduced over recent years that has made them the least protected of all citizens in the UK. In fact it could be argued that there seems to be a concerted attempt to ensure the decline of the indigenous species of these islands. A fact not lost on the Observer who ran an article ‘Lagging at school, the butt of cruel jokes: are males the new Second Sex?’ earlier in the month.
This new found power by women, however, has not led to a more sensitive society, but arguably to quite the reverse. Mothers have not demanded that they be supported so that they can spend, at least, the pre-school years as full-time mothers at this most critical time for their children. So easily done now that there are so many young unemployed who could substitute for them in the workplace. Or that divorce is made far more difficult in order to keep the family unit together, or that fathers of the children of single mothers are obliged to fulfil their role of parent to help these vulnerable women, but, more importantly – their children.
One of the problems with the additional powers gained by women is that they are mainly being exercised by career women, who represent a small part of the female population and are not generally looking for ways to spend more time with their children. Also governments know that working mothers need child care, which provides more tax revenue than if they stay at home to look after their family.
Most mothers would put the rearing of their children significantly ahead of a career and would choose to gradually spend more time at work as the demands of their family decreases. Unfortunately, this is simply not possible for the majority of working mothers as they cannot afford to give up their jobs, although the spiralling cost of childcare is significantly reducing the net profit gained from working.
A popular phrase that has been in fashion for some time now is ‘have it all’ to imply that a mother can be a good mother and hold down a demanding job at the same time – but this seems unlikely to be true. Unless the mother’s mother or a sister is prepared to take on the bulk of the children’s rearing, or a full-time nanny can be afforded, either the professional life or the home life will suffer. Some fathers can take the role of house husband, but these are very much the exception rather than the rule.
Back in 2003 in an article for the Guardian, [Working mothers 'bad for children'] John Carvel reported the findings of a study published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research. The research showed that ‘the children of mothers who return to work full time in the years before they start school have slower emotional development and score less well in reading and maths tests’ and that ‘an early return to work by the mother reduces the child’s chances of progressing to A-level from 60% to 50%’. Also that ‘the employment patterns of the father have little effect’.
The conclusion of Prof Francesconi that [even the children of highly educated mothers who go back to full-time work early will have lower educational attainment, but the disadvantage will not be as much as it is for less educated mums] is damning in educational terms and may have been even more damaging emotionally.
Today the government is criticizing the young and their inability to find work ahead of immigrants, who are likely to have had a full-time mothers caring for them as children. That these immigrants are generally chosen above the British young by employers is hardly surprising since many, if not the majority, of British youngsters will have suffered from not having a dedicated carer and it seems very likely that they are now suffering the consequences of a serious problem that was clearly identified nearly 8 years ago.
It is truly scandalous that the Blair government did not act quickly to find ways that mothers could spend, at least, the pre-school years with their children so as to avoid permanently blighting their lives. For what can be of higher priority to a national government than protecting the nation’s young from harm?
It is outrageous that the present government should attempt to punish these victims by criticizing them for their lack of ability and doing nothing to prevent our current children from suffering the same fate.
Back in 2003 we were in the middle of a boom and the demand for employees made it more difficult to act. Now, however, there are hundreds of thousands of young people who could fill in, either permanently or temporarily, for working mothers to provide extensive leave and at the same time provide the young with desperately needed work. The employed young people’s unemployment benefit could then be used towards helping support the mothers who opt to give up their job.
That this has not been thought of and implemented by now, given the vast resources available to it, further demonstrates that the government’s real concern is not for the wellbeing of the people, but the interests of the corporations who donate large sums to their coffers.