Government, childcare, muddled values and faulty assumptions

The Government are concerned that shortages in the labour market risk harming economic growth. Of course, some might suggest that labour shortages have a bit of a relationship to recent changes to immigration policy post Brexit.[1] However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt has come up with a different answer. As part of a twitter thread outlining Government plans to deal with labour shortages, he writes:

Then he adds:

“… there are 400,000+ parents in England with children under three who are not looking for work due to caring responsibilities.<br><br>Next year, we’ll increase free childcare for working families – removing barriers to work for nearly half a million parents””>May 16, 2023

Now, it I true that some people would like to return to work but are prevented due to the cost of childcare. However, Jeremy Hunt seems to have overlooked one possibility which is that some parents may actually prefer to be at home looking after their children, nurturing them and giving them a good foundation in life. 

The Government seem to have some misplaced values, they’ve chosen to value money and economic growth over the benefits of stability, nurture and loving care.  The result is that they’ve assumed that everyone is just desperate to get into the workplace.  This sends us two other concerning messages about values.

First it suggests that only economically productive work is considered to be truly valuable work.  It ignores the effort and the value of other types of work, including parenting.  This also suggests that it is only the economically productive that are of value in our society with concerning implications for how we see, for example, the elderly.

Second, this also gives the unfortunate impression that the Government primarily sees us, not as human beings with dignity arising from being made in the image of God but rather as labour fodder, there to contribute to the great national effort. Fascinatingly too, this isn’t sounding very … conservative.

If the Government were genuinely concerned for the needs of parents and children, it might start asking about how it can best support families.  Depending on your particular political leanings, you might suggest tax credits, benefits, a genuine living wage reducing the need for two income families. Alternatively, you might argue for tax breaks which would have a similar impact on the cost of living for young families.  Either way, the focus would be on allowing parents the choice about whether both should return to work after maternity and paternity leave or whether one should continue at home to care for the children with all the benefits that offers to the children and to society.  Incidentally, such measures would also increase spending power and so boost the economy too.

[1] For the record, I supported the UK leaving the EU but do not believe that this necessitated hard borders and argued at the time that we should make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to remain in the UK.

%d bloggers like this: