Would paying stay at home parents a wage be such a crazy idea?

In the midst of the furore surrounding the Coalition’s wide ranging welfare and benefits reform, and claims made by many that the Government’s recent childcare changes discriminate against one-earner households, I thought it worthy to consider whether stay at home parents (by which I mean, those who spend the entirety of their working week at home caring for children, or other dependents) should be paid a wage by the Government in lieu of the many jobs they do around the home. By ‘jobs’, I mean tasks which in actual fact it would not be unusual to demand a wage for, cleaning, taxi driving, cooking just to mention a few!

It’s possible to come at this from a number of angles, one such approach which is of particular import is the value (by which I mean the status and respect it commands within society) placed on the work of stay at home parents in comparison to other professions. That is, many argue that the value of being a stay at home parent is significantly less than that of a ‘professional’ man or women. Many reasons for this have been proposed, but more importantly in the context of this article, would the value and standing of stay at home parents improve throughout society if it were attached to a wage? More to the point still, would more families become one-earner households if doing so were tied to a financial incentive?

Whilst i’m not saying that  stay at home parents should consider doing so for purely financial reasons, it is intriguing to note that according to polling, many parents would consider the stay at home option if it were more financially viable. Indeed, when one considers research conducted both in the USA and UK, that suggests that when totting up all the tasks stay home parents do, it could add up to anything between approximately £30,000 and £75,000 per year.

Some will of course say that in this dire economic climate we simply cannot afford to pay stay at home parents from the public purse. Yet, as mentioned earlier, the government has found some £1.4 billion for its latest childcare plans, and has found even more, £10.7 billion by 2016-17, to raise the personal income tax threshold to £10,000, which will primarily benefit two-earner households in the upper half of the income distribution.

Hence, whilst it may be a little unrealistic to expect stay at home parents to be paid £75,000 per year by the Government, would it really be that unreasonable to give something to help households where one-parent stays at home and has significant caring responsibilities? After all, as much research has highlighted, it is one-earner households who are especially likely to be in poverty (only households where there is no one in work are likely to experience higher poverty rates, whilst lone parent families are also at high risk) and as the Christian Social Policy charity CARE has pointed out, one-earner households currently lose out when it comes to the tax system and work incentives, seeing only 27 pence come into the household for every extra £1 earned in work (this is particularly true for poorer one-earner households on the minimum wage, 50% and 75% of the OECD average wage.)

From a political and policy viewpoint, (let us not forget David Cameron’s pledge to make Britain the most ‘family friendly country in Europe’) any policy along these lines could be limited to families on incomes below a certain level, and could be limited to families with young children or with significant caring responsibilities for older children or adults. In any case, when considering the important work stay at home parents do, the value of this role in society, the raw deal one earner households currently get and the policies the Government has introduced to help other household types, maybe offering remuneration to stay at home parents isn’t such a crazy idea after all!

Agree or disagree with what i’m saying? Take part in the debate and comment below!

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