Post by: On_this_rock
Sole Parent Benefits have recently come under fire because of a sanction on those parents that do not name the other parent for child support payments. Specifically, sanction 70a of the sections 176, 177 and 178 of the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill, enforces weekly reductions of benefits of $22 per child, and then an additional $6 if no action to name the other parent has been taken during first 13 weeks (AAAP, 2018). Those sanctioned are predominately mothers: 13298 women vs 318 men and approximately 17000 children (Auckland Action Against Poverty).
AAAP says that these sanctions are punitive and cause families to live in extended poverty but, government officials have stated that the sanctions ensure fathers do not “shirk their responsibilities”, and help to preserve children’s identities. Minister Anne Tolley has also admitted that the ministry did not have enough evidence to prove that the sanction was achieving what it was intended to. (Owen, 2017). To me, the sanction is unnecessarily punitive; it punishes the mother and places on her, undue responsibility to make the father meet his ‘responsibilities’, in circumstances where often the mother has made the choice to not name the father to keep herself and her children safe. Exemption processes are expensive or difficult to manage with children in tow, and do not guarantee lifting of the sanction, as ‘proof’ is decided by WINZ case managers, not legally trained. To date only 4% of solo parents are exempt (AAAP, 2018).
I think it is the way we view father ‘responsibility’ that is at the root of the discord, because paternal responsibilities are measured solely economically. As Metiria Turei said:
“This particular sanction assumes that women on a benefit are swapping dependence on the father of their children for dependence on the state…that is a very 1950s sexist assumption about women’s financial independence and their right to make decisions for themselves.”
I think it is inherently unjust to reduce the amount given to a solo woman caring for her child/ren because the father is unsuitable to parent. Not to mention solo parent welfare is directly related to child poverty, which contradicts any current social or political concern for child welfare. If the solo parent benefit was equated to wages of a job comparable in ‘time spent’, it would be well under-paid; sanctioning the solo parent benefit that already misses the mark for living wage, is like saying that an employee will have their pay docked if another employee doesn’t turn up for work that day. Which is even more shocking considering that the minimum child support payment is $10.80 less than the weekly sanctioned amount (Owen, 2017).
It is an instance of a patriarchal ideology about a woman’s place in a man’s world; being single is living outside of the traditional expectations, being a single mother is rendered almost criminal. Single women are thus, penalised for dispelling the myth that a woman need to be dependent on a man. The reality is that being a woman is socially and economically disadvantaged and being a solo mother even more so.
It is an instance of a patriarchal ideology about a woman’s place in a man’s world (Chasteen,1994); being single is living outside of the traditional expectations, being a single mother is rendered almost criminal. Single women are thus, penalised for dispelling the myth that a woman need to be dependent on a man ( Reynolds & Taylor, 2005). The reality is that being a woman is socially and economically disadvantaged and being a solo mother even more so. Women in New Zealand on average received 36.7% less income than men, in a Statistics New Zealand survey (Statistics New Zealand, 2014). In comparison, single parent families earned 39.4% less than the average man. In the Effects of Motherhood on Pay report, the pay gap between single mothers and single non-parents was 12 percent (Statistics New Zealand and Ministry for Women, 2017)
Marilyn Waring an economist and former New Zealand politician suggested that to obtain a clearer picture of the value of women’s work, economists should assign monetary values to unpaid work, both productive and reproductive. She said this can be measured by a Human Development Index and time use surveys, and an analysis of that data would highlight how social spending cuts increase the burdens placed on women and the harm caused by policies.
My final word: We need to address the pay gap, the GDP methodology and sexist ideologies about parenting roles, and in doing so we will be able to truly begin to amend child and parent poverty, and the policies that perpetuate it.
Auckland Action Against Poverty . (2018, April). Stop The Sanctions Petition. Retrieved from Auckland Against Poverty: https://www.aaap.org.nz/stopthesanctions
Beddoe, L., & Joy, E. (2017). Questioning the Uncritical Acceptance of Neuroscience in Child and Family Policy and Practice: A Review of Challenges to the Current Doxa. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(1), 65-76. Read here
Chasteen, A. (1994). The World Around Me: The Environment and Single Women. Sex Roles, 31(5), 309-328.
Manch, T. (2017, July 20). National: Benefit Sanctions See 17,700 Children of Solo Parents Lose up to $28 a Child a Week. Retrieved from Stuff.co.nz: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/94921227/Benefit-sanctions-see-17-700-children-of-solo-parents-lose-up-to-28-a-child-a-week
Messac, L. (2018). Outside the Economy: Women’s Work and Feminist Economics in the Construction and Critique of National Income Accounting. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 1-27. doi:10.1080/03086534.2018.1431436
Owen, L. (2017, September 14). Benefit Sanctions Actually Linked to Long-term Welfare Dependency. Retrieved from Newshub: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/09/benefit-sanctions-actually-linked-to-long-term-welfare-dependency.html
Reynolds, J., & Taylor, S. (2005). Narrating Singleness: Life Stories and Deficit Identities. Narrative Inquiry, 15(2), 197-215.
Statistics New Zealand. (2014, September). 2013 Quick Stats About Income. Retrieved from Statistics New Zealand : file:///C:/Users/admin/Downloads/quickstats-income.pdf
Statistics New Zeland and Ministry for Women. (2017, July). Effect of Motherhood on Pay Summary Results. Retrieved from Statistics New Zealand: file:///C:/Users/admin/Downloads/effect-motherhood-pay-summary-results.pdf
Walters, L. (2017, December 1). Politics: Will The Removal of Benefit Sanctions Affect Children’s Identity? Retrieved from Stuff.co.nz: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/99430995/will-the-removal-of-benefit-sanctions-affect-childrens-identity