Tuesday, 30 June 2009

some reflections on 'the working poor'

What's going on with many of our nuclear families?
Both parents working and still falling behind financially; many using charity to supplement their income / lifestyle.
The gap between income and 'needs', at least for many, increasingly unbreachable.

[H]unger [sic] gnawing away at children and families of the working poor


McMillan says charities as far away as Hervey Bay are sending someone south weekly to collect food, as a new "working poor" emerges in the long queues.

The "working poor" includes families, he says, where both parents have a job. But after clothing their children, paying a mortgage and filling the family car with fuel, the parents are often caught short on food.

(Do your own search if you like; find your own link/s.
The above is simply an apposite, contemporary report.)

I'm not a nostalgic: the post-War years through the 70s were far from ideal.
Many aspirational 'working-class' families (like mine) went without many 'basic' goods – TVs, certainly, but also appliances like vacuum cleaners and washing machines – we now take for granted;
women were in many ways second-class citizens;
domestic violence and sexual abuse were all too often trivialized or swept under the carpet;
many smart kids missed out on a university education because they couldn't afford it.
Et cetera.

So I'm not suggesting that Then was 'better' than Now.
Yet I'm really curious to find out Why – 30, 40, 50 years ago – most families could survive and pay off a mortgage on a single income when, these days, a combined income is often insufficient.

I've read that the ratio between household income and housing affordability has stretched to breaking point; i.e., property is way over-priced and mortgage repayments are in many cases unsustainable.
I've also read that society's idea of 'essentials' vs 'luxuries' has changed: that our collective addiction to consumption is the culprit, since 'too many' expect to own a McMansion, a widescreen plasma, an X-Box, a boat … three or four cars in the driveway!, the nett effect of which is a shrinking disposable income.
(Begs the question: when did FOOD become a 'luxury'? Well …)
There's also the fact that many parents are so 'time-poor' that they feel compelled to purchase take-away and / or prepare packaged, 'convenience meals' for the family. Quite aside from the health impacts – increasing obesity and diabetes in kids for example – these foods aren't cheap.
'Labour market reform' suggests many people – particularly the unskilled and semi-skilled – simply don't earn enough.
No doubt there is a host of other contributing factors.

I've tried to keep this post apolitical and honest: I really don't have any answers.
I'm starting to conclude that, in an increasingly secular society, consumerism has replaced religion as 'the opiate of the masses'.
And, being addicted to revenues, governments of all persuasions are pushing the 'production–consumption' mantra.

Yet that's only a symptom.
What's the disease?
You tell me.

1 comment:

jymlol said...

What's going on with many of our nuclear families?

probably died of radiation poisoning