Sunday, April 02, 2006

Addicted to welfare

Muriel Newman refers to a new book which compares the rates of teenage pregnancy, cohabitation, divorce and sole parenting across the continent;

In Britain, where an anti-marriage agenda is being strongly promoted by the public service, universities and government funded social agencies, family problems are rife, with Britain topping the league tables in several of the most worrying indicators of breakdown, including divorce and teenage pregnancy. In Sweden, where a comprehensive social engineering programme has transferred many family responsibilities to the state - to a degree unseen outside of the Soviet bloc - there are even higher rates of out-of-wedlock births and cohabitation than Britain.

Italy, however, has effectively had no government intervention into the family, and is still the home of the traditional family unit. Divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births, including teenage pregnancies, are extremely low. Cohabitation is so rare as to be difficult to measure. Young people live with their parents until they get married, and, for most women, marriage will represent their first living-together relationship.

But what about the role of Catholicism?

James Bartholemew addresses that; Benefits influence behaviour in a big way. I suggest that the different benefits policy on lone parenting in Italy has been the primary reason for the low incidence of lone parenting there.

It will be said that no, it is all because the country is Catholic. But I believe, though I have not got the figures to hand, that Ireland has a much higher incidence of lone parenting, even though it, too, is Catholic. Also it is wrong to suggest that Sweden did not previously have a strong tradition of protestant religion and a culture of marriage and 'upright' behaviour. That culture has been undermined. Cultures, even ones heavily influenced by religion, can be changed and have been changed very dramatically around the world in the past 100 years.

Then a commentor on Bartholomew's blog points out that the fertility in Italy is very low at 1.2 (The replacement rate is 2.1) Who will pay for pensions, he asks?

See the bind we are in. Where sole parenting is subsidised birthrates are higher (but not necessarily the quality of parenting). So once again the welfare state perpetuates itself. The more of it we have, the more of it we need. The western world is addicted to welfare.


Anonymous said...

I understand the alarm raised at the "anti-marriage system" which appears to be in place within the UK. However, is it such a bad thing to empower people with the ability to live their lives in dignity, rather than to tie them to an abusive and neglectful spouse?

Women within the UK have every chance to earn a good living, own property, to be in control of their own future. Women wanted to have such control over their own lives since time began... its called equality. The story was very different fifty years ago. Divorce was a difficult way to end a marriage. The ex-wife quickly found a new husband, or she'd finish up with no income and no home.

Any woman who became pregnant, before being married, was deemed to be mad. Many teenage women ended up within mental hospitals, just for the "crime" of having a baby out of wedlock.

The media in the modern world prints frightening statistics of anti-marriage behaviour. Yet in this new century, most divorced women (and men too) either find their own feet on solid ground with a good income, or re-marry after three years or so.

The press only allows us to see the amount of failures, not the number of successful marriages (or re-marriages). So therefore I do not agree that the social safety net encourages divorce. I believe it stops people being chained into a hopeless future with a bad partner. It gives sanctuary for a short while, until they're on their feet again.

When the desperate lives of women are highlighted within other religious marriages, the press cry out in anger. Women are enslaved to their spouse under the threat of severe beatings, or even death. Teenage girls are murdered by their own families for having sex before they're married. I don't think anyone would have a desire to protect the sanctity of marriage under extreme conditions such as those.

Anonymous said...

It is not equality "anonymous" it is a subsidy. That means one person collects while another pays. One works for the benefit of the other. That is not equality but servitude.

However Newman misses one important point, probably because she just rewrote this from another source and didn't research it herself. She crows about the low rate of out of wedlock births in Italy. Yet she neglects to mention this is because no one in Italy is having children. The fertility rate is only 1.2 well below the 2.1 needed to stay the same. Italy is dying. It's population is aging rapidly with no children at all being born. It is 1.96 for NZ. The US which is much less generous with welfare than many places has about a third of all births to unwed mothers. And most of those are to women NOT on welfare.

The teenage birth rate in the US exceeds NZ. And while Italy is low when it comes to teen births so is Sweden, much lower than the less welfare inclined US. Welfare surely has some impact but there are lots of issues ot consider. Newman has a tendency to look for single causes for things.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Anon 1 said "However, is it such a bad thing to empower people with the ability to live their lives in dignity, rather than to tie them to an abusive and neglectful spouse?"

Where's the evidence that has happened? In NZ we have apparently more domestic violence than ever. Escaping it needs alot more than just an alternative source of financial support. In fact, some male types who abuse are attracted to women on a benefit because the woman is often isolated as opposed to being in the work force. However she does have a steady source of income, albeit small, that he can bludge off.

"It gives sanctuary for a short while, until they're on their feet again." This is the case for around a third of our sole parents on benefit. The other third cycle on and off and the remaining third are on welfare almost permanently.

Anon 2. I'd be interested to know your source for the statement that that MOST of the births to unwed mothers in the US are to women not on welfare.
I agree that there are factors other than benefits at play.

Anonymous said...

Lindsay said, "In NZ we have apparently more domestic violence than ever. Escaping it needs a lot more than just an alternative source of financial support."

Perhaps Lindsay could suggest alternative (and viable) methods for helping the victims, which provide immediate relief and support.

Lindsy's opening paragraph states, "In Britain, where an anti-marriage agenda is being strongly promoted by the public service..." Then Lindsay starts writing about NZ??

No matter... Not to worry about details... The problem is rife everywhere.

With no immediate and effective support for people in problem marriages, the victim will suffer in silence for burning the dinner. Those who leave have no other option but to return, risking further beatings (likely to increase in severity).

As geographical location isn't considered a problem on this page, let's have a look at marital life in Egypt.


Here is an extract from it. "For many, though, getting a divorce is only half the battle. "The legal and bureaucratic nightmare of obtaining a divorce is often followed by the frustrating process of enforcing court rulings for alimony and child support," Human Rights Watch says. "Many divorced women find themselves destitute because of the government's failure to enforce these rulings.""

Anon 1 writes that the UK was similar back in the 1950's. I don't think it could have been that bad. Maybe the worst was hidden, not talked about and 'brushed under the carpet'. Not having a social safety net to financially help those victims for a short period is condemning them to a life nobody deserves.

Looking back to the UK, there is an attitude where a woman is legally equal to a man. She can have an equal pay, she can own a house and she can raise her children by herself. After a divorce, her husband pays Child Maintenance, so the broken family unit should never be a burden on the public purse. Note, in some cases the sexes are reversed. I can accept some do appear to abuse the system, yet most of the time it's due to the fact that the absent parent refuses to financially support their own children, or the parent with residence cannot find local employment to support themselves.

Yours, Jonathan.