Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Low wages, Daily Mail and single mums

The Mail is convinced single parents are behind child poverty. But in a country where wages are absurdly low and the rich/poor gap huge, playing happy family is never going to stand much of a chance.

And so David Cameron was caught pissing in the tent. Yesterday's pledge against the Government's welfare shake-up on the subject of single mothers was never going to go down well with the tabloids. Their relentless banging on the subject that single mothers are all like Karen Matthews (i.e. little more than feral beasts), fitted in perfectly with Gordon Brown and James Purnell's crackdown on spongers. How could the Tory leader play spoilsport?

Which is why today the Daily Mail is pissed off. Really pissed off. Cameron ducks the welfare question, goes their editorial, accusing him of 'mixed signals', 'meaningless gesture politics' and lack of 'substance'. "And while you're at it, Mr Cameron, show us some credible policies for welfare reform", is their scathing conclusion.

Their obsession with single mothers is spectacular. For the Mail, they are truly the root of everything that is going to pot in Britain. "For proof, look no further than yesterday's official figures, showing that as the number of single parents has increased, so too has the number of children living in poverty", they write.

So here's the tabloid's warped logic. The number of single mothers has increased therefore there are more children living in poverty. A, therefore, B. Textbook false premise for the braindead.

Because the Mail isn't even interested in finding out why there's been a rise in single parents. Could it be, just by chance, that economic conditions are pushing people into the sort of life your average Mail reader wouldn't even know about?

It fits the tabloids' narrative to write that everyone who lives on a council estate is a benefit-sponging scumbag, but are the millions of men and women working on the minimum wage (or under) invisible? Where are they supposed to live? How are they going to be able to play happy married family and afford a mansion in the Cotswolds? Low wage work in the UK increased significantly in the early 1980s and it is still at an historic high. And it's exactly those miserable wages that allow the people at the top to rake in eye-popping dividends.

So how about a correlation between the poorer getting even poorer and the number of single parents increasing? The gap between rich and poor in the UK has been getting progressively worse for the past 40 years. "The disproportionately wealthy are becoming segregated from the rest of society, creating a deep polarization. Some cities in Britain have areas where more than half of all households are struggling on the poverty line", said a recent report.
According to the OECD, "the divide in earnings widened by 20 per cent between 1985 and 2005, leaving the gap between the top and the bottom greater in the UK than in three-quarters of other developed nations".

Add to the equation the demise of social mobility, meaning that people in poverty or semi-poverty are very likely to remain stuck where they are, and it's quite clear that whether a single mother is on benefit or whether she's stacking shelves at Tesco, her children will remain in poverty.

1 comment:

Anita said...

But it's been the same crap for centuries. In Dickens' days the middle/upper classes would talk about the corrupt, filthy, drunken masses like if they were inferior people.

It simply wouldn't cross their mind that their own privilege would stem directly from the masses' shitty slums and generally awful quality of life.

The only thing that has changed today is that the masses on ridiculously low wages (shop assistants, supermarket staff, call centre people, catering staff, cleaners, food packaging industry etc) are forgotten.

Just think about. How many articles do you see abou them everyday? And yet they're hard working people. The hardest working in fact.

It's much easier to shoot at the idle ones. The "benefit underclass" and stick Karen Matthews' face on whichever newspaper article, to make it look even uglier and evil.