VIEWS

We pay teachers, we pay foster parents, logically we should pay housewives, too

EDWARD CARRIGAN April 1 1971
VIEWS

We pay teachers, we pay foster parents, logically we should pay housewives, too

EDWARD CARRIGAN April 1 1971

We pay teachers, we pay foster parents, logically we should pay housewives, too

VIEWS

EDWARD CARRIGAN

□ A housewife should be paid for raising a child

-even if it is her own!_

□ Is democracy one day in every 1,461 enough?

□ Your views on War Measures and Good News

THE MOST NEGLECTED, reviled, and exploited segment of the Canadian labor force, and of the Canadian social structure, consists of those women devoting their lives to the care of their own children. No segment of the labor force must endure longer hours and working conditions that virtually ignore their special needs, yet — and this is the ultimate degradation in a society that has enshrined money as the final determinant of worth — receive no more than the current level of family allowances as remuneration for their efforts. Hands are wrung in professional labor circles over the idea of a wage freeze, but if our family allowance payments had increased in proportion to the growth of the Gross National Product and the increase in per capita incomes, they would now amount to more than $30 a month for

Edward Carrigan is a 34-year-old bachelor who works for a clothing manufacturer in Toronto. His letters and articles appear regularly in numerous Canadian oublications.

each child instead of six dollars.

Women with children under their care make up more than a quarter of the national labor force, and officials with the Department of Labor in Ottawa have estimated that the value of the work they perform in the course of their duties is almost $40 billion a year. Their work requires unparalleled reserves of moral character, physical stamina, and a range of skills.

Women with children under their care must face open advertisements for rental accommodation reading, “Adult building” and “No children.” Is it possible to imagine the horror among liberals if advertisements read “White building” or “No Negroes”? Yet children and their parents make up half the population of our urban regions, whereas Negroes are a miniscule minority. In truth, women whose job is the care of their own young represent the vast, submerged feminine proletariat, rendering invaluable services to the community and expected to subsist on our current family allowances. They bulk as large in the public imagination and receive as little consideration as the industrial workers of England at the time of the Industrial Revolution.

Logically, women should be paid as much for tending their own young in their own homes as they are for tending other people’s children in day nurseries. The average child of today will earn over $500,000 in his or her working career, and many children will earn several times that figure. Thus a woman with four children under her care is responsible fqr future national wealth on the order of two million dollars and possibly four million or five million. If men or women exercised such great responsibility in any other area of the economy, they would be well compensated for their efforts and given the best of treatment. That element of the labor force consisting of women caring for their own children must be placed on the public payroll through the creation of an adequate program of family allowances — the housewife’s salary.

What would be adequate? In Ontario foster parents are paid from $69 a month for a child of one to $104.10

a month for a child 13 years or more. They fully deserve this consideration, but it is discrimination against natural parents not to extend this payment to them as well. The Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended that the national government pay an annual salary of $500 to women for each child 16 and under. This can be taken as the minimum interim goal. Women with children under their care are expected as a matter of course to hold down two jobs. They are asked to work for 40 hours a week in factory or office, and then to come home and spend the rest of the week caring for their children. Yet the care of the young is a full-time job of incalculable value to the community, and those engaged in it should receive an adequate salary from the nation in whose service they labor.

This nation pays its 240,000 teachers quite handsome salaries for caring for children seven hours a day, five days a week, eight months of the year, and it is only just that those who care for children 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year should be paid for their work.

The living costs of children should be publicly financed. Sweden chose day nurseries. But after 50 years of effort, it has places for only 35,000 children and the costs have escalated to $2,000 a year for each child, a level that is quite uneconomic for the 7.5 million children of this nation. Hungary tried for two decades to accommodate its children in such institutions, but recently raised family allowance payments to $48 a month for each child seven or under, deciding that this was much cheaper than trying to look after them in day nurseries.

Our children cannot earn their own incomes and it is only right that those incomes should be provided by the nation as a whole. We grant old age pensions to older people on the reasonable grounds that they have built the nation and deserve compensation for their efforts; so we should publicly finance the living costs of the young, in recognition for their future services to the nation. We should establish a housewife’s salary. □

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