To understand why Britain has such welfare dependency, look at the incentives. The horrible truth is that a girl leaving a British school with poor qualifications has a choice of career: work or pregnancy. As welfare is split up (council tax relief, tax credits, etc) no one in government has an overview of the real choices facing our school leavers. But I asked Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice to put together the figures for me – before housing costs, so as to compare them to the going rate for jobs. The weekly net income of a benefits-dependent parent is as follows:
Lone parent, one child: £207 a weekTwo children: £262 a weekThree children: £324 a weekFour children: £377 a weekFive children: £441 a week.
Now compare this with work. The ONS recently published what women are paid for various occupations. It shows that a woman with two kids (and a £262 net weekly income) does better than a waiter (£113/week) a cashier (£128) shelf filler (£155) library assistant (£170) hairdresser (£188) child-minder (£240) and street trader (£246). These are gross figures, so you’d have to take off a bit for tax (and add about £30 to the waiter and shelf filler – the lower paid get tax credits) but you get the picture.
I hope that Tom keeps going on at this. Unlike many other Labour MPs it does bother him. It is, in my view, the most important topic in Britain right now and it is horribly under-debated. If left and right really clash with each other on how best to solve this problem, how best to make work pay, then so much the better. We must grasp that we are paving a road from school to welfare dependency and we should not be so surprised when so many millions choose to take this road.