behome logo


Figures released last week indicate that rates of unemployment and inflation in Britain are falling like stones. The economy is in rude health. Indeed, the Government thinks the UK can be the world’s richest nation – again – within the next couple of decades.

Does all this industriousness in the workplace endanger the home?

The Government says it wants to see Britain outstrip even Germany when it comes to the proportion of its citizens who do a job (and no, Whitehall does not consider running a home and raising a family to be a job, before you ask).

Currently, 75 percent of Germans are in employment, compared to 72 percent of Britons, though the gap is narrowing. So Britain’s Treasury may be on to something.

The Germans, of course, are famed for their productivity. Perhaps they are naturally diligent volk? But what else might account for this Teutonic industriousness?

Could it, in fact, be the fact that Germany has persuaded so many of its womenfolk to work? Maybe. Certainly, Germany leads the developed world when it comes to the proportion of female graduates who will never have children (a third) and lies at the bottom of Europe’s fertility league table (1.36 children per woman).

This may be a throwback to the place of women under the communist yoke in East Germany, when women who did not want a job were officially ridiculed as demented. But even Angela Merkel, an Ossi by birth, recognises that Germany has a problem. In 2006 she introduced some of Europe’s most generous pro-natal benefits. New mums were given up to 1,800 Euros a month to help them cope with parenthood.

Britain, by contrast, is scrapping or curbing child benefit payments. And that is one of the reasons why, this week, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation painted a new and depressing picture of how hard it has become in Britain to be a stay-at-home parent.

The JRF describes as “drastic” the deterioration in living standards enjoyed/endured by families in which one parent stays at home to raise children.

They provide figures to support their assertion. For a single person – without children – living outside London, a pretty basic standard of living will cost £16,284 a year. The same standard of living for a couple with two children would set them back £40,600.

The report singles out households in which one parent works full time and the other does not work – usually the classic stay-at-home mother model – as seeing one of the most significant deteriorations.

The proportion of such households living with less than they need surged from 37.7 percent in 2009 to 51.3 percent in 2013. The biggest increase came in just one year, rising by more than a quarter between 2012 and 2013.

It is little surprise that the number of home-makers who feel compelled to join the workforce continues, inexorably, to rise. It is ruinous not to. As Be Home has noted before, Government policies designed to boost childcare and enhance parental leave, help mums and dads see children as a bump – rather than a fork – in the career road.

It almost seems as if the Treasury has decided that Child Benefit is one of those invidious payments which wreck lives by providing a disincentive to the long-term unemployed – often single-parents – to go back to work. It does not occur to the Whitehall wonks that Child Benefit might be a way the state can signal that it is willing to reward parents – mothers usually – who have forfeited a good job so that they might create a home which nourishes well-adjusted future citizens.

And for Child Benefit, read tax-breaks for stay-at-home parents too. Because a Government committed to turning every adult into a worker, so that Britain might officially overtake Germany as Europe’s hardest grafter, can only view a woman who wants to be a home-maker as a statistical eccentricity, an obstacle to productivity, an economic anomaly.

A quarter of a century ago we vanquished the Soviet menace and won the Cold War. In doing so we triumphed over a nihilistic philosophy which saw individuals as units of production to be expended for the common good and the family as the mortal foe of the Marxist-Leninist experiment.

Strange to consider then that Britain now works in ways that the apparatchiks of East Berlin could not fail to recognise.

In short, our leaders seems set on abolishing the traditional family; not by fiat of the state and denunciation by the Stasi, but by incremental reforms of our tax and benefits system.

Joanna Roughton is Media Relations Manager for the London-based Home Renaissance Foundation and editor of HRF’s BeHome blog. This article is reproduced from BeHome with permission. 

Joanna Roughton is raising the voice for Home Renaissance Foundation as its Media Relations Manager. Jo was formerly senior editor at Reuters in Hong Kong and Singapore, and Head of Foreign News at Sky...