I don't know why I put myself through it, yet still I did it ..... I listened to the details of Budget 2015 the other day. It was a slightly better budget compared to those of more recent years, and it was jokingly thought to have been yet again translated from it's mother language, i.e. German! There were little presents to the lower and middle income earners of Ireland in the form of extra tax relief and an increase in child benefit. It did irk me a little that all the calculation examples quoted on the evening news programmes added the tax relief due for Water Tax, even though this relief isn't claimable until 2016, and didn't reduce any gain by the cost of said Water Tax charges to reflect this budget's true net effect. In fact this Budget was pretty much neutral. For some, for others it was a loss, due to some anomalies.
Later that evening I listened to the comments and concerns from the sample panel of a small cross-section of our society, and I agreed with their points of view.
I also heard the usual argument against the universal way that we allow child benefit to all, including the 'rich'. People would have preferred that it be given in the form of childcare relief, to facilitate mothers (it's usually the mothers) who work outside the home.
I also listened to, and agreed with, the working mothers who put their points forward with regards to the costs of going to work ie childcare.I listened to, and agreed with, a mother who is a Carer to her son who has 'additional needs', who now has options to either work or to do further study. The obstacle in her path for both was also the cost of childcare.
In recent years the cost of childcare is highlighted again and again and again. And rightly so. All Governments in the past decade or so have resided over a policy of ensuring that mothers who's children were at school to get out there and get a job. That policy pervaded in boom and bust years alike, and I believe that that policy is Individualisation.
Now also during the above period there were mothers who either financially needed to work or preferred to be a working mum. It's entirely irrelevant why the mother is working really. Working mothers contribute to the working ethics of this country and to the state coffers (as well as taking care of home and child duties.) If childcare costs are seriously affecting any mothers choice to work then we should recognise that and make any tax allowances that's required.
But we should not abolish child benefit as it stands and replace it with a childcare allowance, or Tax Credit.
Not unless you also grant it to those who don't 'work' but provide another form of childcare.
And it's this group of Irish citizens that has been repeatedly ignored, in budget after budget, year after year.... also ever since the introduction of Individualisation. In fact this group of mothers very rarely get a mention, so much so that they don't even have a voice anymore. And that really saddens me. I'm also very much concerned about how Government after Government seems to see the preferred family unit as one where both parents work, if jobs are available.
Yes, this group I refer to are of course those mothers who by choice or necessity stay home all day to mind the children.
And like working mothers it's also entirely irrelevant why they are stay-at-home-mums. The fact that they don't contribute to the state coffers seems to have a bearing, I don't believe that any Government in the past 14 years has ever acknowledged the contribution that a lot of these mothers also make to society (via extensive voluntary work in schools and parishes etc;etc;etc,) as well as to home life. Besides, as I've said before : 'Not all contributions to our society can be measured in financial or economic terms.
You may wonder why I blame Individualisation as a problem for both women who go out to work and women who stay at home. Well, I'll tell you why:
- Individualisation replaced the aggregation form of taxation for married couples and was introduced in Budget 2000. One of the reasons it was introduced was as I've said before: 'it was felt that women were incentivised to' seek economic independence' .
- In fact the effect of this new way of treating married couples, which meant a financial hit to those families where the mother stayed home, was that a lot of women with children went back to work as they couldn't afford not to. Older couples whose children were fully grown up were also affected in this manner. It may have suited some of them to do so but that's not the point.
- Then along came the recession in approx 2008 and a lot of jobs were lost. A lot of these jobs were part time jobs. And a lot of these part time jobs were filled by women.
- Individualisation helped fill all those vacant positions from 2000 (Fianna Fail either planned this -and I believe they did - or it was an unexpected huge bonus) and when a lot of those positions were no longer there Individualisation was still retained.
- While this Individualisation did recognise the stay-at-home-parent by introducing the paltry 'Home Carer Tax Credit', the Government of the day only granted it due to the uproar caused at the time; the one and only time that the SAHM's very loud voice was heard.
- While most family tax credits have received a tweaking over the years, the Home Carers Tax Credit has only been slightly increased once in the 14 years since it was introduced. Despite salary increases and tax decreases during part of that time, all Governments continue to value the work that these parents do to the tune of approx €14.80 per week.
So, what do I want? I want to see a Government that encompasses and values all family choices as regards working in or outside the home, and all forms of childcare.
I'd like a Government that makes any necessary adjustments that makes it financially viable for a family to choose whatever form of childcare or work choices that they find suitable, or necessary, for their family unit.,
I want us a society to not value one over the other, to see the value that both working and Stay-At-Home-Mums (or dads) bring to our nation and to the future of our society.