Priti Patel’s ‘Economically Inactive’ Comments Betray UK Govt’s Hostility to Traditional Family

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: British Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves 10 Downing Street on February 13, 2020 in London, England. The Prime Minister makes adjustments to his Cabinet now Brexit has been completed. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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“Almost communist” comments by the Home Secretary that “economically inactive” people should be mobilised into the workplace have underlined the actively hostile policy environment for young families created by the government, and have angered a vocal group of stay-at-home mothers.

A fringe discussion around the British immigration policy debate is rapidly turning its focus towards the attitude of the government towards the much under-appreciated occupation of homemaker. As British housewives take to social media to vent their frustration at being treated so dismissively, one prominent trendsetter in the so-called ‘tradwife’ community has called the government’s stance “insulting” and “almost communist”.

Asked who would perform menial job roles as the United Kingdom pivots away from an open borders immigration system to one that focuses on issuing visas to individuals with a demonstrable baseline of skills and reasonable job prospects, Home Secretary Priti Patel cited the 8.5 million “economically inactive” people who could be put to work instead.

Yet as the BBC and others pointed out since the remarks were made, the United Kingdom is presently in a period of historically high employment, and low unemployment, so there isn’t a large pool of people looking for a job. In fact, just 1.8 million of the “economically inactive” people identified by the Home Secretary actually want a job, a very low number for a country the size of the UK — with many of the remainder engaged in studies, retired, or too unwell to work.

One of the largest groups is the nearly two million people who look after their families or a home — what would once have been simply known as housewives. The oversight has left some expressing displeasure at the suggestion that being “economically inactive” means they aren’t working as just hard, or harder, than everyone else.

Speaking to Breitbart London Thursday, Alena Pettitt — a homemaker who has become a focus for both curious attention and disgust in the mainstream media’s sudden interest in the ‘tradwife’ movement — said Patel’s comments were “incredibly insulting”.

Pettitt, who said she founded her Darling Academy as a means to help support other women who had chosen to raise families with technical know-how but had latterly found herself being forced more into the position of activist on behalf of other mothers, pointed out that stay-at-home mothers had largely chosen that role for themselves and didn’t want to be forced into work.

A stable home environment helps husbands achieve their full potential in the workplace — aiding economic growth which the government gives wives no credit for — and is the best possible way to bring up healthy and happy children, she said. Many mothers didn’t have children intending to immediately “hand them over to the state” to be raised, she said, pointing to a school system which forces value judgements onto children that may not align well with those of parents.

Pettitt told Breitbart London that it was an irony of the way government values citizens that humans are judged to have worth if they look after other people’s children or clean other people’s homes — in return for wages — but are looked down upon if they perform the exact same tasks for their own family. The only interest the government had was turning women into taxpayers, she said, following up earlier comments that Patel’s position was “almost communist”.

Noting that finding any work that would comfortably fit around school hours, school holidays, and unexpected absences — for instance in the case of an unwell family member — was already difficult, the pay in many such roles is so low it doesn’t break even with the extremely high cost burden of paying for childcare and high taxes, Pettitt added. This, she said, made returning to work uneconomical or merely break-even for many.

The comments of Home Secretary Patel, and the lived experience of Alena Pettitt and others, underline the hostile attitude of the state and the modern economy towards the family.

Taxation is levied on individuals rather than family units, meaning two individuals — even with the paltry married couple’s allowance factored in — earning a basic-income tax rate salary of £30,000 each a year pay less tax than a single breadwinner earning the same collective amount of £60,000. While the total income of that household is the same, it being paid to one individual puts the earnings into the high tax bracket instead, disadvantaging a traditional family over a “modern” one.

This deliberate policy of getting women into the workplace is working for the government. The latest job figures show clearly the fastest-growing group of new entrants to the workforce is already women, and that has been a broad trend for decades. Government figures show that while in the 1970s around half of women were in paid employment, the proportion has risen to nearly three-quarters today, an increase of millions.

While some of this growth has been driven by women wishing to forge their own careers, much is also informed by the changing economy and government disincentives for single-income families where a breadwinner is able to earn enough to keep the whole family and allow the partner to manage the home and raise children.

The British approach — which closely resembles many other Western nations including France, Germany, and the United States — is not the only model, however. Poland and Hungary, which both share a broad European culture that suggests their policies could easily integrate with the United Kingdom if there was a political desire to do so, are strongly pro-motherhood and pro-family.

In Hungary, new policies will see mothers who have four children exempt from paying income tax for the rest of their lives, while the government will give generous loans to families which would be totally written off if three children are born to a couple.

In Poland, the state is to award special pensions to show “gratitude and respect” to mothers who have raised large families, helping to secure their old age after a lifetime of dedication to the future.

These policies are already seeing benefits, with birthrates rising.

In Hungary in particular, the pro-family policies are born of a recognition of a particularly vicious cycle born of low birth rates leading to demands for high immigration — a demographic factor that returns to this particular argument to Priti Patel’s comments.

The Patel Paradox is that responding to a theoretical labour shortage by pressuring young women into work means fewer children will be born, aggravating the problem in decades to come. So far, the British response has been to prop up the economy with immigration, but supporting families is a long-term sustainable solution.

Do human beings have any value beyond being GDP production units, especially if the process of reproduction can be subcontracted abroad and then imported? Why should children be raised in families, if the state can nationalise that function? Is the Conservative party conservative in any meaningful sense of the word?

Home Secretary, over to you.

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