Support carers not corporate bludgers

A candidate for the vomit inducing moment of the week must be Minister for Social Services Christian Porter and his crocodile tears for young people "trapped on welfare", especially those slogging away as carers and single parents.

His government is so concerned about their wellbeing it has been trying every way it can to cut their payments and drive them deeper into poverty.

The Murdoch press got the tip and paved the way with beat ups about a new generation of young welfare bludgers.

The great friend of the battler, Pauline Hanson, chimed in with inane drivel about women having babies just to get payments.

Porter's $96 million of targeted funding to help young carers find work is just cover for the greater plan to kick as many off benefits as he can. He must think we have all forgotten how only two years ago the Liberals were trying to enforce a six-month waiting period on all young unemployed people applying for Newstart.

What was really galling was the attempt by Porter and much of the media to frighten us all with the cost of such "dependency" by bandying about figures modelling the total bill to the taxpayer of a lifetime of welfare payments. Because this was an exercise in divide-and-rule aimed at young welfare recipients, Porter notably did not reference the far greater amount spent on pensions and family tax benefits, let alone subsidies and tax breaks to big business.

But let's stand Porter's scare campaign on its head. Caring for children, the elderly, the ill and people with disabilities is vital work without which society would grind to a halt. But it is work that is mostly unpaid and mostly done by women — women such as my own grandmother who, like so many, cared for others nearly her whole adult life. It was not paid work, but it sure as hell was work.

If you consider the miserable pittance we pay to support carers, we should be reflecting on just how much they save us, not what they cost. Economists have estimated that if a dollar value were put on all the unpaid work done by women, it would constitute 60% of global GDP. Capitalism simply could not exist without sponging off this enormous reservoir of unpaid work.

The Liberal government understands this perfectly well. The less spent on welfare payments to those in need means more for corporate handouts. In the words of Tony Abbott: "It was my distinguished predecessor, John Howard, who pointed out that the traditional family was the best social welfare system that mankind had ever devised."

Not for nothing did Abbott say "mankind" and not "humankind". You can forget about "womankind". It illustrates that the social conservatism of these Liberal Party leaders is not just some kooky throwback to the 1950s, but serves the economic interests they represent. Maternity leave at full pay, the one social advance that Abbott championed, albeit because of his glorification of motherhood, has of course been ditched.

This latest attack on some of the poorest and most hard-working members of our society came at the same time as the charity ActionAid released a report titled Not Ready, Still Waiting. It estimates that over her lifetime a woman will do four more years of work than a man, if necessary but unpaid work is factored in. Even in a developed country like Britain they estimate a woman will do an extra two and half years of work.

The chief executive of ActionAid UK Girish Menon was quoted in The Guardian: “We do not mean to suggest that all unpaid work, including unpaid care work, should be remunerated, or to ascribe a monetary value to unpaid care, which includes what we believe to be intrinsically invaluable activities, such as loving and nurturing children and family.

“Rather, ActionAid believes women’s unpaid work should be recognised, reduced and redistributed — between women and men, and between the household and the state."

Redistributing women's unpaid work between the household and the state would mean lifting welfare payments over the poverty line, making shelter a right through new investment in social housing, providing affordable and accessible childcare for all those that need it, paid parental leave for women and men, and so much more.

For all the advances society has made in achieving legal equality for women, on so many of these underlying social measures we have stalled and are going backwards. We have to fight back like peoples' lives depend on it, because they do depend on it.

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