Saturday, February 24, 2024

Won't anyone think of the children? Part One

 The term ‘screwed’ can mean several things. Urban Dictionary gives one example as, ‘a position that is a result of a problem or bad situation that seems impossible to solve or get out of.’

Not everyone wants to be a parent The UK organisation, Pregnant Then Screwed, uses a play on words to describe the onerous position that some expectant mothers find themselves in when confronted with the financial burdens that capitalism places upon them.

The statistic that one in five spend half their earnings on child care is very worrying. Along with the onerous costs of childcare costs in the UK PTS expresses its concern that, ‘ 20% of mothers in England are unable to take up a more senior role due to childcare costs and availability compared to 8.8% of fathers’ and that, ‘cost and availability continues to have a negative impact on the economy and on gender equality with a third (33.6%) of mothers in England unable to return to work full-time due to childcare costs or availability, compared to just 11.9% of fathers.’

This constitutes an erroneous view that appears to be more concerned with ensuring that women should be ‘better’ placed to be exploited by capitalism.

Despite the good intentions of PTS there does not appear tp be, on their part, insight into the underlying problem which is the cause of the ills they highlight. The ‘solutions’ which they would like to see implemented are no solutions at all. The solution is a simple and straightforward one, it’s the replacement of an exploitative capitalist system with Socialism where not only will quality goods and services be produced for free, not profit, but the stresses the present system causes, not just for parents, but for all, will be abolished for good.

Research from PTS reveals a sharp increase in childcare debts that parents are facing. 45.9% of parents in England with a child under the age of 5 years old say they accrued debt or had to withdraw money from their savings to pay for childcare – a 30% increase from 35.2% last year.

The report has found that 1 in 5 parents (21.5%) with a child under 5 years of age had to withdraw money from their savings and pension to pay their childcare bill, and 37.1% said they had to use credit cards, take out a loan or borrow money from family or friends. The figures rise sharply for single parents with a child under 5 years old, almost two-thirds (66.5%) accrue debt to pay for childcare, including 50% who borrow money, and 31.3% who withdraw money from their savings and pension pot to plug the gaps.

In 2023 the same survey found that 35.2% of parents had to rely on some form of debt, or withdraw money from their savings to pay for childcare. With 27.6% saying they have had to borrow money and 15% saying they have had to withdraw money from savings or their pension

Currently, women retire with a third less in private pension savings than men due to inequalities in the workplace and the knock-on effect of caring responsibilities.

Half of parents with a child under 5 years of age in England (53%) say they spend more than a quarter of their household income on childcare, this is up 16% from last year, whilst 1 in 5 parents (19.2%) say they spend more than half their household income on childcare.

But cost isn’t the only issue. A third (34%) of parents said their childcare provider has a waiting list longer than 9 months and only 13% of parents said there is no issue with childcare availability near them.

The issue of cost and availability continues to have a negative impact on the economy and on gender equality with a third (33.6%) of mothers in England unable to return to work full-time due to childcare costs or availability, compared to just 11.9% of fathers. Meanwhile, 20% of mothers in England are unable to take up a more senior role due to childcare costs and availability compared to 8.8% of fathers.

Devastatingly, 52.5% of mothers who have had an abortion either somewhat agree or absolutely agree with the statement “I believe that the cost of childcare was the primary reason for me to terminate a pregnancy”

Worryingly, the cost of childcare continues to price parents out of growing their family, with 85% of parents agreeing with the statement – ‘’I tend to view childcare costs as prohibitive of having more children.’’

Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of charity, Pregnant Then Screwed said: ‘’We’ve not only got a cost of living crisis, we’ve got a cost of working crisis that disproportionately impacts mothers. We’re running out of babies. The birth rate is in decline. But parents who want to have more children cannot afford to do so. Being a parent is tough enough, but when having more children means sacrificing your income, procreation feels like financial suicide. If we aren’t careful, becoming a parent will be a luxury item, and the economy can’t afford to pay that price.”

The Government has pledged a reduction in childcare costs starting 1st April, however, only 35% of parents in England agreed with the statement, “I think childcare costs will be less of an issue for my family in 2024 due to childcare schemes announced by the Government.” This was reduced to 15% for single parents and 27% for Asian parents. Whilst 90% of parents in England agreed with the statement, “I do not believe the Government’s promise that childcare costs will reduce.” But even when a family is eligible for free hours, and there are places available close by, almost a quarter (23%) of parents said they couldn’t afford to access those hours due to the top up fees charged by nurseries for sundry items such as nappies and food.

A spokesperson for Women In Data® comments “Collectively we need to close the gender gap and remove the challenges Women face to achieve equality of opportunities in the workplace and reduce burden of the unspoken ‘tax’ on mothers from additional unpaid labour as carers and in the home.

Pregnant Then Screwed lists its ‘solutions’ to the problems that it sees as:

legislative change that will foster greater parity between men and women, both in the home and the workplace; support for pregnant women and mothers to access free legal advice as well as supporting them to challenge discrimination and to take legal action against an employer; contribution to government consultations and policy-making; give training to employers to help them make their workplace the best it can be for working parents, and work to rebuild the confidence of mothers and support them to find work that works for them.

Looking through an old copy of the Socialist Standard, the writer came across a series of articles based on lectures on that seemingly eternal subject, “The Women’s Question.” Like unemployment, it is always with us, and will remain so until the inception of Socialism.

Woman cannot expect emancipation, any more than can her fellow-worker, man, under the existing system, capitalism. The amount enjoyed now by the male is merely a question of degree, conditioned mainly by his class position ; if of the working class, he is at liberty to sell his labour power or to starve.

Morgan, in his great work “Ancient Society,” shows clearly that the subjugation of woman did not come about to any great extent until the importance of private property was realised. Woman then became part of it; she was as important as flocks and herds, because she was reproductive, and she had no more freedom. Companionship and affection between the male and female had not yet been realised, and could not enter into the contract. The husband punished infidelity with severity, whilst reserving for himself the right of promiscuity. A section of women became courtesans, thus filling the needs of man for enjoyment outside his own home. These were found in the early civilisations of Rome and Greece, where the married women had no rights or freedom. Man then became the head of the family, over which he exercised power of life or death; property descended through the male line instead of the female, as heretofore, and the female lost all right of expressing herself and putting her point of view as she had been accustomed to so doing in the savage tribes. Her place became the home, whilst the man developed for himself a life outside it and generally had some voice in public affairs. Thus began the possibility of the charge so often still levelled against woman, that her mind can only appreciate trivialities. Small wonder, she was for so long debarred from all else, and the education available for her brothers was denied her.

Time, coupled with the progress of capitalism, has modified her position somewhat. To the capitalist she has appeared in the guise of a worker who will accept less wages than the male. Her centuries of subjugation were exploited to their fullest extent during the Industrial Revolution. Marx, in “Capital” (Vol. I.), gives a telling quotation from Lord Ashley’s speech on the 10-hours Bill. “Mr. E., a manufacturer, informed me that he employed females exclusively at his power looms . . . gives a decided preference to married females, especially those who have families at home dependent on them for support; they are attentive, docile, more so than unmarried females, and are compelled to use their utmost exertions to procure the necessaries of life. Thus are the virtues, the peculiar virtues of the female character, to be perverted to her injury; thus all that is most dutiful and tender in her nature is made a means of her bondage and suffering.” (Page 100, Glaisher edition.)

During the present war the calling up of men for the armed forces, and the subsequent conscription of women for industry, has once again given the capitalist a golden opportunity for getting more surplus value from his workers. Army pay has been so low, has borne so little relation to the needs of life, that women with small children have been compelled to go into the factory. That it has been the design of the representatives of the capitalist class, the Government, is evident by their provision of war-time nurseries. They are learning how better to enslave their workers from their co-belligerent Russia, who provides factory creches for war workers’ babies, so getting their cheap labour without damaging the next generation of wage slaves. Britain has hitherto been too crude in her methods to make such provision. Mothers have gone out to work and left their children under little or no supervision, which has been one of the causes of infant mortality and disease.

Woman has awakened sufficiently at this time to strive for “equal pay for equal work,” but not enough to demand the abolition of the wages system. She, like her male fellow worker, does not realise the theft that is being perpetrated upon her when she becomes employed. Such slogans tend to increase any antagonism that may exist between the sexes, instead of uniting them against the common enemy, the master class. The possibility of further antagonism may be manifested after this war, when men return from the Army to find, as after the last world war, that the women ensconced in their seats are unwilling to get down, and it will doubtless be exploited by Governments when unemployment once again becomes rife—as indeed it must, despite all “reconstruction schemes.”

An organisation called “Women for Westminster” has recently been born. It has a self-explanatory name and object. What a waste of time and energy such an organisation causes, and what future disillusionment must there be among its adherents ! Supposing they were to have a measure of success according to their aims, and get a predominance of women in the House of Commons. They would find that women, merely as women, can run capitalism no better than can the Labour or Tory Parties.

The Suffragettes have been appalled by the lack of enthusiasm for the vote, following their desperate efforts to gain it. Their lack of knowledge of the make-up of society is the reason for their indignation. Despite the constant propaganda of the press, screen and radio, woman as well as man is sceptical, often unconsciously so, regarding electioneering programmes, which cater for all tastes. Speaking generally, members of the working class are apathetic and not politically conscious. Many, unfortunately, are led away by reform parties, by idolaters of Russia, or by mushroom growths such as Commonwealth.

Many of the reforms regarding women have been implemented since Mary Woolstonecraft wrote her book “The Rights of Women.” These may, in the main, be attributed to the rise of capitalism, which has made it necessary for woman to take her place as part of the industrial army. In countries such as Turkey, for example, where after years of seclusion woman has removed her veil and gone out to work in the factory, it does not merely indicate that opinion there is becoming more liberal, but that the forces of industrial capital are at work looking out for cheap labour. The benefits woman has received in the field of education have been essential for her to take her place in the professional groups, and whilst giving her some individual freedom, have exchanged her quiet home life for that of a competitive existence.

Many women intent on emancipation have sublimated their natural instincts. This is undoubtedly possible for the possessor of an interesting and absorbing job, but as most work has been reduced to routine by the division of labour, characteristic of capitalist organisations, little permanent satisfaction is obtained thereby. With the present knowledge of birth control, the modern working woman denies herself the pleasure of children rather than bring them into a world, for them, of abject poverty. Frustration is thus found on all sides; denied an interesting and creative job, denied the rightful expression of her normal instincts, woman becomes, like the male worker, another machine for productivity and exploitation by the capitalist.

Whilst capitalism lasts, women will remain, like men, in a subject position, no matter how far progress is made towards equality with men. The interests of women are therefore identical with men in struggling for the overthrow of the present system, as it is only under Socialism that both will find real emancipation.

W. P.

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