Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Benefit rises lead to more single mothers

The Greens and the Maori Party should heed new research which estimates that an increase in yearly benefits of 1,000 euros $NZ 1,976) will increase the incidence of single mother families by about 2 percent.

These two parties are supporting the Child Poverty Action Group's legal challenge to force the government to increase payments to beneficiary families with children. If they succeed we are likely to see more young women becoming single mothers.

The research analysed 14 European countries and found that Britain had by far the highest proportion of single mothers in the European Union. The report says that eight percent of British households were headed by a single mother aged 18-35. Britain also has one of the highest benefit rates. The lowest numbers of single mothers were in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy.

The researcher, Libertad Gonzalez, a Barcelona academic, said, 'The correlation across countries is quite striking. The countries with the highest incidence of single mothers are also the countries with more generous benefit, and vice versa....Spain, Greece and Portugal with small numbers of single mothers also have lower benefit levels. The UK and Ireland are both generous with benefits and have a higher incidence of these families.'

According to the British Sunday Times, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show single-mother families in Britain have steadily risen from 1% of all households with children in 1971 to 11% in 2004.

By contrast New Zealand's 2001 Census showed 24 percent of all families with dependent children were headed by a single mother, with a further five percent headed by a single father. The numbers are projected to rise.

In the past the OECD has criticised New Zealand's single parent benefits as being too generous. This new research, and other research from the US, would suggest that there is a strong correlation between the level of our benefits and the high number of single mothers.

If the proponents of increasing benefit rates are still not convinced, they may care to have a look at the Dominion Post, page A8 today, where even a single mum on welfare says giving more money to beneficiaries is not a good idea. She is quite clear about where the money will end up, "They'll just spend it on more piss".

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