One minority is consistently ignored in today’s Ireland, writes David Quinn
Minorities today often receive preferential status. This is to compensate in many cases for a past in which minorities were often discriminated against or rendered invisible.
The compensation takes many forms. One is protection from criticism, hence politically correct policing of the things we say. Another is quotas, hence in politics and business and academia there are now quotas to ensure that women are properly represented in some of the more important areas of our society. There are arguments for and against quotas, but they are here to stay for now.
But while women in general are considered to be a minority that are due compensation for past treatment, there is a sub-category of women that is most certainly not considered a minority owed special treatment, and that is the stay-at-home mother. She has very few champions, and none, it would appear, in key positions.
A report was issued last week by Solas, an organisation that offers further education to people trying to enter the workplace. It is called ‘Women on Home Duties’.
It looks at the 218,000 women aged 20-64 who are not participating in the paid workforce and it wonders why.
Drawing on data from the Central Statistics Office it finds that a big majority of these women do not want to go into paid employment, regardless of their education level.
For example, 74% of ‘women on home duties’ who have no education beyond school do not want to go into work. But this only drops a bit, to 68%, among women with a third level qualification.
In total, there are 57,500 women working in the home with a third level qualification and 39,000 of these want to stay at home. A big majority of women at home have children who are school-aged or below.
Why did Solas issue this report? The reason is that Ireland is basically at full employment and employers are having difficulty finding additional workers, especially skilled ones.
This is why there is such interest in the more than 200,000 mothers who are at home rather than in paid work. It is why there seemed to be such disappointment in the finding that a big majority prefer to be at home caring for a dependant, mainly children, rather than in the workforce.
For example, one person who attended the launch described this finding as “a punch in the gut”.
Now, why would you think this is “a punch in the gut” if you are happy for these women to stay at home?
But that is the point. The powers-that-be don’t want them to stay at home. There is absolutely no indication from the report that being a stay-at-home mother is considered a good and worthwhile choice, just as worthy as being in paid employment.
Nor is there the slightest interest in mothers who are currently in paid work and who might actually like to cut back on their hours or quit the workforce entirely, for a few years at any rate.
There is every chance such women exist, and in large numbers, because far more women than men are in part-time employment and almost 75% of these women do not want to increase their hours, according to CSO data.
At the launch of the Solas report, the focus was solely on persuading more mothers into work.
For example, Sonya Lennon of Dress for Success, an organisation that exists to help women get into the workforce, said we need to look at “old chestnuts” that prevent greater participation by women in the workplace, including “remote working” and “better access to childcare”.
It was Sonya who described the report’s big finding that most stay-at-home mothers are happy with their present situation as “a punch in the gut”.
The number of stay-at-home mothers is, in fact, dwindling as female labour force participation increases. In other words, they are a shrinking minority.
Given their minority status, and especially given the fact that they are mostly happy to be at home – in other words it is their choice – why don’t they receive the recognition most minorities are given these days?
The answer is clear: the Irish State, allied to both business and feminist groups, wants them in paid work. It does not want there to be any long-term stay-at-home mothers at all.
Employers want as big a pool of potential workers as possible. That keeps wages down (because there is lots of competition for jobs), and the wheels of industry turning.
Feminists want all women working because they believe that is the only way to achieve full economic equality between the sexes. It is why feminist groups, which insist they believe in ‘choice’, do not believe in the choice to drop out of paid employment to mind children, and stay out, at least for a few years.
It is why you will never hear stay-at-home mothers lauded, almost never see or hear them on radio or television, and almost no policies exist that support them.
The long-term stay-at-home mother is one minority both employers and most feminists want to see disappear completely.