October 16, 2012
This legislation supported by the Coalition is an indication of how the social democratic state is changing and how welfare is being transformed into workfare. It moves single parents off the parenting payment, and onto the Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight.
The Newstart Allowance is considerably less money than the parenting payment and the discipline of Newstart (an obligation to look for fifteen hours a week paid work) aims to change the personal behaviour of certain groups (teenage mothers?) who are seen as being too reliant on welfare.
Eva Cox says:
The core issue is whether the decision to further extend this program can be justified by evidence supporting the claim that changing the payment system will actually benefit sole parents. The proposition is that that lower pay rates, together with some improvements to employment support services, will increase their workforce participation rates.
The argument is that if almost half of all Australian children living in poverty are in single-parent families; and 25% of single-parent families live below the poverty line, then employment and training is seen to be the best way out of poverty.
The neo-liberal assumption is that single-parent resist pursuing the goals of improving their lives and the wellbeing of their children through education and employment and downplay the institutional barriers to entering the workforce. Their personall responsibility policy has a moral overtone: one of punishing single parents that cannot find suitable work, rather than encouraging anyone back into the workforce. It is about appearing tough on the (undeserving and unproductive) poor.
It is very difficult to sustain a “good” job, generally a full-time job, while being the only parent. Problems were exacerbated when children had special needs.Veronica Sheen says that:
Where women are raising children alone, the tensions between work and family are particularly pronounced. This has the effect of pushing them into lower paid, casual jobs. The current policy directed to the workforce participation of single parents must be supported by training and assistance in finding sustainable, decent jobs which fit with their children’s needs – and which, of course, serve to lift these families out of poverty.
Most single parents become single parents because of a breakdown in a relationship, or the death of the other parent. Providing adequate child care and giving more incentive to those that wish to study or train to gain skills, would help to overcome the barriers to re-entering the workforce.