Policy decisions – spreading the help

This morning David Cameron is widely covered in the media, ruminating on the discussions he attended yesterday where state leaders exchanged policy experiences on a number of topics important to feminists.

The headline yesterday was the achievements of Sweden in increasing the number of women on the boards of large companies following the introduction of mandatory quotas.

But today the papers seem to have picked up on another angle. One that intrigues me as much for the outcry from left-leaning feminists (actually, let’s be honest, most feminists on less than £50k a year!), as for the scarcity of its details.

According to the papers, Cameron is pondering the value of giving tax relief to people who hire domestic staff.  Apparently in Sweden the very rich benefit from this arrangement and they find it is great for job creation, particularly among immigrant communities.  Interesting to also pause to reflect that the jobs it creates are probably largely for women – what with domestic employment still the realm of females.

Of course the papers have had a field day with denunciations of elitist protectionist tax policy, and puns on the Jeeves and Wooster stereotype, and quite likely by the end of the day I will be firmly in the camp of the Good Lord What Was He Thinking?  But I wanted to post this while I think there may be a spark of sense hiding behind this vulgarly unrefined idea.

Here it is:

Women on the cusp of board positions tend to be the higher earners among society, and we constantly hear that they “choose” not to return to work after having babies. Perhaps their husbands are equally stashed so they simply don’t need to, but I think that ignores the obvious ambition of women who have come this far. So something else is stopping them returning to work – and I believe it is in part to do with getting enough support for their other role (that of mothers, because lets recognise statistics strongly show the home work remains her responsibility no matter her salary).

I have among my friends a couple such women, and the way they have managed a full time return to the cut and thrust and hefty time commitment of board level positions is by hiring nannies. Live in, live out, whatever. Currently in this country (though interestingly, not in France), parents have to pay all the same employer taxes as a small business when hiring dedicated childcare (or other domestic support – though that isn’t where I want to dwell because I do agree this whole argument becomes a whole lot more tenuous when we are mourning the hassles of a maintaining a beautiful lawn, or waxing teacup rings out of Georgian furniture).

I think I would probably largely support a tax break for child care in every form – whether that is privately hired or within a group/nursery setting.

I have absolutely no idea whether Cameron’s musings are currently touching on this at all, or whether he genuinely is worried about the decline in topiary skills within the UK labour market. But it’s just a thought I had.

Did you have any? Go on, I know you do….


2 responses to “Policy decisions – spreading the help

  1. on a personal level, i chose not to return to work after having children because i wanted to be with those children, to be the one to bring them up, to be their biggest influence in their early formative years. unfortunately finances forced me back to work. dont get me wrong, i do love my job, (perhaps more than many) but i love my time with my children more. perhaps many of these women on the cusp of board positions feel the same. Before i had my babies in my arms i would never have dreamt of giving up my wonderful fulfilling career. but everything changed when my babies arrived. I dont love my job less than i did before, i just love my babies more than my job. Given the choice i would spend my time with them in preference. I dont have that choice a) i need the money and b) they need an education (in my opinion, for my children, in a school) and a social life of their own. so i returned to work and am rapidly working my way up the ranks again. Life for a mother is a balancing act.

  2. oh and i claim childcare vouchers… £242 of my salary every month is dedicated to paying for childcare and therefore tax free. (my husband does this too) works well for us.

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