Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Fewer than one in ten British women now stay at home to look after their children
A huge change in a relatively short time and a sad one for both the mothers and their children
The stay-at-home mother is fast becoming consigned to history, according to the latest census figures. Returns showed there are 300,000 fewer than officials had previously estimated, with those who devote their lives to bringing up families now reduced to a tiny minority. Fewer than one in ten women of working age are stay-at-home mothers.
The collapse follows a decade in which governments urged mothers to take jobs on the grounds that working is the route to fulfilment for women and that families with two incomes are much less likely to fall into poverty.
Critics, however, are concerned for the well-being of mothers who might prefer to be with their families, and the impact on increasing numbers of toddlers who spend long hours in day care.
The 2011 census results found there are 1,598,000 women who do not work because they are looking after their home and family – 298,000 fewer than estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
In the 1970s, when the term ‘housewife’ was still popular to describe the lives of millions of mothers, the great majority of women with young families stayed at home.
Two decades ago, at a time when higher career expectations combined with fast-rising house prices to push increasing numbers of mothers into the labour market, 17 per cent of women were estimated to be stay-at-home mothers.
That fell to 12 per cent by 2002 and has now dropped below 10 per cent. The census results also showed there are 538,000 more women who have jobs than official estimates calculated.
The additional numbers mean there are now just under 13million women in England and Wales who work or who are looking for work – a figure growing close to the 14.6million men who are reckoned to be ‘economically active’.
The decline in numbers of stay-at-home mothers will be welcomed by ministers as the Labour drive to push mothers into work has continued under the Coalition.
Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss has made a priority of providing cheaper day care to help mothers into jobs.
In an article earlier this year she said it was ‘vital’ for mothers to work, adding: ‘To power ahead Britain needs to look at best practice from overseas to discover how to increase women’s participation, especially for those who are parents.’
But critics say the sky-high level of house prices and the lack of help for two-parent families in the tax and benefit systems means most mothers have to work, whether they like it or not.
Family researcher Patricia Morgan said: ‘There is an assumption that all mothers are desperate to work. ‘But the evidence that is available says they would mostly rather be at home looking after their children, and go back to work when the children are older.’
Critics of Coalition policy say benefits such as tax credits are skewed towards helping single mothers and there is no assistance for couples.
A report last year from the CARE charity found that married couples where the mother stays at home face a tax burden 42 per cent higher than the average tax level in developed countries.
Human rights no defence for criminals and terrorists, says Britain's Justice Secretary
Criminals and terrorists should no longer be able to cite “human rights” as a defence for their behaviour, the Justice Secretary warns today as an official commission prepares to set out plans for a British Bill of Rights.
Chris Grayling says that an “absolutely clear balance between rights and responsibilities” now needs to be set out in British law in the wake of controversial European legal judgements.
In an article for today’s Daily Telegraph, the Justice Secretary indicates he may call for Britain to leave the European Court of Human Rights if the Tories win the next election.
The Commission on a Bill of Rights will today set out how a new Bill could be introduced by Parliament which would set out the fundamental rights for British citizens in a single piece of legislation. It will recommend such legislation be delayed until after the referendum on Scottish independence in autumn 2014.
It will demonstrate how similar legislation used in other countries can be considered by European courts. The UK Bill of Rights “could also help address certain rights that had arguably been eroded by successive legislative measures”.
But the commission was not asked to study whether Britain should now leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) so its recommendations are being seen as “short-term” solutions by ministers.
The Justice Secretary said: “As a Conservative minister, I believe that it is time to examine how to curtail the involvement of the European Court of Human Rights in UK domestic matters.
“I also think that in future there needs to be absolutely clear balance between rights and responsibilities in law. 'I know my rights’ has to stop being a defence against unacceptable behaviour.”
He added: “As Conservatives, we remain absolutely committed to the importance of human rights around the world. But we do not believe that people should be able to claim the right to family life as an excuse for operating outside the norms that apply to most people in our society. We believe that with rights come responsibilities.”
Controversy over human rights laws has risen up the political agenda over the past few years following legal judgments demanding that prisoners be allowed to vote – and blocking the extradition of terrorism suspects. Kenneth Clarke, Mr Grayling’s predecessor as Justice Secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, established the commission to draw up plans for new legislation. Mr Grayling now believes that the commission’s recommendations can only provide a temporary solution.
In today’s article, he hopes the work of the commission “will allow us to take further steps to improve the situation.
“But we also have to accept that there are limitations to what we can do as part of a Coalition. Whether we like it or not, both Labour and the Lib Dems disagree with us about the scale of change which is needed.”
The commission comprises nine of the country’s most senior legal experts. They include Anthony Speight QC, a Conservative lawyer, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a Liberal Democrat peer, and Baroness Kennedy, a Labour peer.
Earlier this year a cache of emails and internal papers leaked to The Daily Telegraph showed the commission was riven by division. The leaks came after the academic Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, one of the original members, resigned, claiming the commission was rigged by Europhiles such as Mr Clegg.
We want exemption on gay marriage too: Angry Muslims demand government treats them the same as Church of England
Muslim leaders yesterday criticised controversial plans to allow gay marriages – and demanded they should have the same legal exemption as the Church of England.
The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 500 mosques and community organisations, claimed the law was ‘utterly discriminatory’ and said they were ‘appalled’ by it.
Farooq Murad, secretary general of the MCB, said his organisation had also ‘explicitly’ stated its strong opposition to the proposals, and he was seeking an urgent meeting with Culture Secretary Maria Miller to discuss amending it.
The legislation, announced by Mrs Miller last week, would allow same-sex couples to marry as early as 2014.
However, she made it expressly illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to conduct same-sex weddings.
Mrs Miller added that any religious group was allowed to ‘opt in’ and perform ceremonies if they wish.
She made the unexpected exemption for the Church saying it was a ‘special case’ because it has its own laws, the Canon laws, which compel vicars to marry any couples who live in the parish, regardless of denomination.
The compromise left both sides unhappy, with traditionalists saying it undermined marriage and human rights campaigners saying it could be open to legal challenge.
Gay marriage has been fast-tracked by David Cameron despite strong opposition within his party and from some religious groups.
Mr Murad said: ‘We find it incredible that while introducing the Bill in the House, Mrs Miller could keep a straight face when offering exemption for the established Church while in the same breath claiming “fairness to be at the heart” of her proposals.
‘The Muslim Council of Britain along with most other faith groups also made equally strong representation. ‘No one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law. 'It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions.’
There was further confusion over the plans yesterday as Mrs Miller wrote a blog on her department’s website claiming the Church of England was not banned from carrying out gay marriages and could opt in.
Appearing to contradict her previous announcement, she wrote: ‘Are we “banning” the Church of England from holding same-sex weddings? No, of course not – they can opt in too.’
Her spokesman said yesterday that last week’s announcement was ‘poorly worded’ and that the Church of England and Church in Wales can opt in if they wish by changing Canon law.
She added: ‘All religions who do not wish to carry out same-sex unions have the same protection, but the Churches must have it in law because of their legal obligation to marry couples.’
Ministers expect the legislation to take up to 12 months to get through Parliament.
Tory MPs, including ministers, will get a free vote. Privately ministers believe at least 40 per cent of Tory MPs oppose the plans. In a surprise move, Labour has also granted its backbenchers a free vote.
Britain’s first gay fathers hope to mount a legal challenge to the CoE’s gay marriage ban.
Millionaire couple Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, who have five children, are committed Christians in a civil partnership and want to get married at their local church in Danbury, Essex.
They said the proposed changes would ‘enshrine discrimination in law’ against gay people.
After Connecticut: The myth of America’s “gun culture”
The obsession with the guns used in school shootings overlooks the cultural factors behind these modern outbursts of nihilistic violence. Could the problem be modern-day moral relativism and the loss of Christian values?
Following the horrific massacre of 26 people, including 20 children, at a school in Connecticut, there has been more heated debate about America’s so-called gun culture. In the eyes of most observers, it is a given that it is the availability of guns in the US that leads to these mass shootings in schools. Apparently, the ease with which guns can be sourced - thanks to the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees Americans the right to bear arms - makes it inevitable that American kids will run the risk of being slain by gun-toters.
Is this true? Really? Even a fleeting glance at some of the statistics on school shootings - especially the fact that multiple-victim shootings were extremely rare before the 1980s - should reveal there is more to these outbursts than the availability of guns. After all, guns have been around in the US for a very long time, but it is only over the past 30 years that mass shootings in schools have become relatively common (‘relative’ being a crucial word here). The fetishisation of the means through which school-killers carry out their acts is really a way of avoiding confronting the cultural factors that might shape such acts. The obsessive focus on the technical execution, the guns used, looks like a massive displacement activity, brought about by an unwillingness to examine the potential cultural underpinnings of the school-massacre trend. The ‘gun culture’ is the wrong culture to be talking about.
The post-Connecticut commentary gives the impression that America is in thrall to The Gun. A writer for the New York Review of Books summed up the rather elitist East Coast view of the problem when he described the gun as ‘our Moloch’ - a modern-day version of the pagan god to whom children are sacrificed. Strikingly, he depicts the gun almost as a sentient force, godlike indeed. ‘Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned’, he says. Here, the shooter’s moral agency, or the broader cultural influences he may have been subjected to, are downplayed in favour of depicting the gun itself as the determiner of events and judge over life and death. In a desperate effort to get around the inconvenient fact that guns are mere tools, no more responsible for evil in our societies than knives are, the writer goes into denial. ‘The gun is not a mere tool [or] bit of technology’, he insists. ‘It is an object of reverence.’
The idea that America reveres ‘the great god Gun’ has been widely expressed post-Connecticut. You can see it in the very phrase ‘gun culture’, which suggests guns, inanimate objects, have somehow conquered America. You can also see it in the childlike claims that greater gun control would solve many of America’s problems. As a British writer says, ‘I am so sick of listening to even liberal Americans being apologists for their nation’s absurd gun laws. No guns = no gun killings. Simple.’
That s-word gives the game away. It is what the ostentatious head-shakers over backward Americans’ alleged worship of guns continually strive for: simplicity. Or, as some of us might prefer to describe it, naivety. Because in truth, it is not obvious at all that the shooting in Connecticut was the inevitable byproduct of the availability of guns. And to argue this is to ignore some complex and profoundly important cultural factors.
Firstly, there’s the fact that shootings in America’s elementary schools, like the one in Connecticut, are, in the words of Slate, ‘very, very rare’. Of the 191 school shootings that took place in America between 1979 and 2011, just 18 - nine per cent - happened at elementary schools. In a 17-year period - July 1999 to June 2006 - 116 people were killed in ‘school-associated homicides’, and just 25 of them were elementary- or middle-school students. For older students, too, getting killed at school is extraordinarily rare. A 2004 US Department of Education report looked at trends in the mid-1990s, a high point in school shootings, and found that where students aged 15 to 18 had a one-in-14 chance of being threatened with a weapon at school, and a one-in-seven chance of getting into a physical fight, their chances of dying in school, whether by homicide or suicide, was one in one million, a statistical insignificance. The shrill critics of America’s ‘gun culture’ depict US schools as Moloch-ruled hotbeds of violence, but such perverse fantasies do not accord with reality.
Secondly, and even more importantly, the argument that gun availability leads inevitably to mass school shootings overlooks the fact that these bloody spectacles are a modern phenomenon. If you look at a long, comprehensive list of shootings in American schools from July 1764, when four American Indians entered a school in Pennsylvania and shot and killed the schoolmaster and 10 children, right through to Friday, when the horrors unfolded in Connecticut, what is striking is how, for the great part of US history, shootings in schools were just an extension of crime in general. They largely involved the killing of one or two or three people, as part of gang-related skirmishes, or acts of revenge against presumably ruthless teachers, or crimes of passion by one young person against another. It isn’t really until the 1960s and 70s, and more notably the 1980s and 90s, that mass school shootings, where the aim is simply to kill a lot of young people for no discernible reason, become more common.
Clearly, there’s something other than ‘gun culture’ going on here. There must be other ‘cultures’ at play, ones which have their roots in something newer than the Second Amendment. Those cultures, to my mind, are today’s profound culture of atomisation, which can have the effect of wrenching individuals from the communities they live in and from the social and moral norms that once governed everyday life, and the destabilising culture of fear, whose treatment of every school shooting as an epoch-defining event which destroys American values does nothing to quell such acts of violence, and in fact could act as an unwitting invitation to other loners who want to make a massive impact and hold the modern world to ransom.
No one knows what was going on in the mind of the Connecticut shooter. But what was striking about his shooting spree, like that which occurred in Columbine High School in 1999 or at the West Nickel Mines Amish School in 2006, was the utter lack of restraint, the absence of any moral code saying ‘It is wrong to violate a school’ or simply ‘It is wrong to shoot a six-year-old child in the head’. Such a dearth of restraining morality is something new, springing more from today’s culture of estrangement, and the individual nihilism it can nurture, than from the 200-year-old Second Amendment.
School shootings are better understood, not as the end product of American revolutionaries’ insistence on the populace’s right to bear arms, but as part of today’s trend for highly anti-social, super-individuated acts of nihilistic, narcissistic violence - from so-called ‘Islamist attacks’ carried out by British men on the London Tube to Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre of 77 of his fellow Norwegians last year.
What such assaults share in common is a profound sense of cultural disconnection. They are, in many ways, the most extreme expression of the narcissism of our age, in which there is the constant promotion of self-obsession over socialisation, and individual identity over collective citizenship, giving rise to a sometimes volatile atmosphere - through both removing individuals from any sense of a meaningful social fabric and imbuing them with a powerful sense of entitlement, where one’s self-esteem counts for everything, and thus any undermining of it is a slight of the most dire order. To try to explain mass school shootings through the fact that guns exist is like trying to explain the al-Qaeda phenomenon through the fact that aeroplanes exist: it fetishises the technical means as a way of avoiding grappling with cultural factors.
Then there is the culture of fear, the tendency to inflate every threat facing society. Largely courtesy of anti-gun liberal observers, there has been a palpable moral panic about school shootings in recent years. This was particularly the case following the Columbine massacre of 1999, when two students shot and killed 12 of their fellow students and a teacher. As one author puts it, the mass media overlooked the rareness of what occurred - they ‘emptied out the social and historical complexity of what was taking place’ - in favour of depicting ‘youth as pathological aliens’ and the Columbine killers as indicative of ‘The Monsters Next Door’: white, middle-class kids who at any minute might massacre your children.
The problem with such coverage is not only that it exaggerates the problem of school shootings, but worse that it has the effect of amplifying the actions of one or two attention-seeking individuals. In recent years, a warped symbiotic relationship has developed between mass school shooters and the mass media. Indeed, from the Columbine killers to the Virginia Tech shooter (who murdered 32 of his fellow students in 2007), shooters have started to make their own videos or to write their own manifestos, sending them to media outlets before they carry out their violent acts.
They seem to recognise that, courtesy of a fear-fuelled media, they will become stars, legends, symbols of the rot at the heart of America, as soon as they start firing their guns. They recognise that bringing a gun to school is all you need to do to hold American values and the whole modern world to ransom. In short, they’re aided and abetted by the culture of fear, by the media itself, which in effect completes these shooters’ acts by dutifully transforming them into terrifying symbols we must all bow before and search our souls in response to. This can act as an unwitting invitation to other glory-hunting individuals likewise to bring America, and the world, to a standstill simply by shooting some kids.
The post-Connecticut blaming of The Gun is shot through with elitism, with ‘gun culture’ seen as springing from those communities which also cleave to ‘religious fundamentalism’ and ‘deny global warming or evolution’. You know who this means: Them, rednecks, whose gun lust is apparently poisoning even decent, middle-class America, places like Connecticut. Yet a closer look at the school-shooting phenomenon might reveal that it is more a product of the very modern, even liberal-promoted cultures of individual identity and fear-stoking, than it is the fault of Texans or Moloch.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.