Thursday 7 October 2010

Not quite true, Tanya

Last week, the Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion, Tanya Plibersek, had an article published in The Age and SMH. In it, she said:

Take jobless families. While unemployment in Australia is half the rate of Europe and the US, last year 619,000 children under the age of 15 were living in households where neither parent was working. Employment is the surest path out of poverty for every member of the family. Kids who grow up in jobless families are more likely to be unemployed as adults.
This information appears to be based on a report from the Social Inclusion Board (who thinks up these titles?) I bothered to read the report. It appears that the Minister, or her flunky, didn't read it as closely as I.

In June 2009, 619,000 children (15% of all children) were living in jobless families. Of all jobless families in June 2009, 67% were one-parent families and more than half of these one-parent families (56%) had at least one child under the age of five years. It is important to note that some children living in one-parent families may have another parent living elsewhere who was employed and providing them with financial support as well as acting as a role model for employment, however this is not always the case. Almost all jobless families with children under 15 years were in the lowest equivalised gross household income quintile (93% of couple families and 82% of one parent families).
The Social Inclusion Board's report gives a more accurate and nuanced picture of the situation. Tanya gives the impression that we have this massive, enormous, humungous number of kids in families that don't have a working parent. What the Board tells us is that there are a lot of families that have broken up due to divorce etc, that the kids are living with mum (who can't work as she is running a household) - but dad (who is living somewhere else) may well be working (and paying child support etc), and having the kids stay with him regularly, thus seeing a working role model.

I know a bloke who is a big cheese with a listed company. He has several kids, and he is divorced. His wife has the kids most of the time. He earns over $1 million per year. His wife and kids get a very good share of that income - they are doing quite nicely, thank you very much. Under Tanya's definition, these kids are part of the 619,000 who are living in a household without a working parent. The Board uses the same number, but is at least honest enough to say that the other parent may be working and acting as a role model for employment. It has no idea how many families are like that, so it doesn't give a number.

Everyone reading this blog post will know someone who is divorced or who has been divorced and single at some point, possibly with kids. In every single case I know of, one or both parents have continued working. Things might be different in other socio-economic groups, but I think Tanya needs to get her facts straight before publishing an article in the paper, and The Age needs to ask some common sense questions and do some background checking before unthinkingly publishing stuff from Ministers. Think of all the divorced doctors, lawyers - politicians even - where the wife ends up in a separate household with the kids, doesn't work and lives on alimony. Dad continues working. (I'm not saying that not working is a bad thing - having mum at home might be the best thing for those kids).

By the way: "Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion" - does that sound slightly Orwellian to you? It does to me.

1 comment:

cav said...

What's going on BOAB?

Where are the pictures of men's bums and hairy legs riding bikes faster than you?

I know, it's your brother, he's visiting you on holidays and he's fixing up ya blog!