Friday, June 11, 2010

Helping sole mothers find a husband

I'm watching the current "welfare" talkfests with little hope that they will point to any genuinely sensible, realistic, effective changes which will actually help people. Today the Dom-Post reported a fascinating Dutch innovation that I'm quite sure won't be followed here - though maybe it should be.

Three Dutch councils are offering single unemployed Dutch women (it doesn't say whether they have children) a fashion and beauty grant and free membership of a dating agency, "to get them off the dole by finding a solvent husband" - or a job.   The councils think that "finding love" will help to get people - men are eligible too, though obviously they think it will apply mainly to women - off benefits by "improving confidence, ambition and motivation". But after adverse publicity, the scheme's been put on hold.

In fact these councils are onto something. Every in-depth piece of research into DPB recipients shows that the main way to get off it is through repartnering. In other words, for women trying to raise kids on their own, the vast majority of them after a "separation" (as it's so neutrally called), it's much harder to find a sustainable job than it is to find a new man with a man's wage. Of course that "new man" often used to be attached to another woman with kids, who may well now be on the DPB herself, but that's life.

So now that sole mothers are being classed as virtually no different from any other unemployed person, the idea of helping them find a new male partner who will be able to support them is just plain common sense. It's a lot more realistic than expecting the right number of manageable, well-enough-paid jobs to appear out of nowhere in response to the kinds of blunt-instrument changes being talked about now, like cutting the DPB when the youngest child turns five.

And of course, if the new relationship breaks down, I guess the state would be perfectly within its rights to bill its "client" for the cost of her makeover. It can deduct this weekly from her new DPB.


  1. Oh dear Anne - so cynical - but also true! (It's certainly how my mother finally made it off the DPB in the end, though admittedly there was funding for retraining involved too. I think long term success was more dependent on the second factor...)

  2. Goodness, a solvent husband!! It's so simple. Much better than dealing with the reasons behind relationship breakdown in the first place, or providing women access to training and/or work experience, or ... so many things ...

  3. Might not this service be usefully extended to older women? I'm willing to volunteer for a trial.

  4. For "helping (NZ) sole mothers repartner. Europe is obviously different to NZ. Could be tricky relying on this in the NZ environment. The economic stigma of being on a DPB that has been created by negative propoganda in NZ often leaves a woman on DPB open to relationship exploitation or fraud. My experience, albiet from late 80's-90's. Just as many of my peers found it akin to unnoficial prostitution. Men in a relationship or marriage they are tired of but do not wish to leave(usually for financial reasons),often see women stuck on DPB as "fair game". A common ststement was 'having a sexual relationship on DPB was akin to claiming some of their tax back...personally. Often this was not said to the woman involved but more afterwards in the "locker room" environment. Being on DPB means that you are not as attractive to a man earning a wage,particularly if that man was already paying maintanence to a former spouse, who would prefer to "hook up" with a partner who was already in the work force than someone who was subject to WINZ oversight and who, in all liklyhood would need immediate economic support,should they marry or even become engaged. Issues regarding the assumed possibilty of difficulties with a jeolous ex spouse in tow, etc don't help, and facing prejudicial reactions from family members when a relationship is declared. I don't think things have changed that much. My son's peers(19-25yr) still need to have access to DPB which is more contestible now. It is not an uncommon situation to have to put up with having personal relationships continually contested by others. The emphasis is not so much a matter of need and entitilement but how fast one can be pushed off into paid work...any paid work or having benfit entitlement contested by personal relationships being continually scrutinised by people within one's social network. Dating and relationships are now very conditional on not being "needy" and being able to "pull ones weight" within the relationship. The "work first" doctrine is very seductive. I apreciate that there are some people who seek a partner for the "right" reasons, but there are a lot more who treat the dating circuit very much as a "employer" would look for a suitable "employee". They will "date" a sole mum (especially on DPB) for amusement, sometimes years, but when financially stable, or "ready" to settle down and have their own children, will ditch her in favour of someone "less encumbered". A "solvent" man is more likely to prefer a "solvent" woman.The current propoganda has a lot to answer for.