Sunday, 30 December 2007

"Pregnancy targets to be missed"

Targets are pointless and are there to be missed.

Let's just look at the numbers. Total births to under-18s in E&W according to this are about 23,000 a year. There are about 680,000 females aged 16 or 17. That means about one-in-thirty 16 or 17 year old girls have a baby every year, which seems pretty horrific to me.

What's the government doing to discourage teenagers from having babies? Well, setting up targets and spending £100 millions a year on quangos and advertising no doubt.

And, more pertinently, what's the government doing to encourage them?

Er ... offering them £175 a week guaranteed net income (plus other bits and pieces) plus priority in allocation of council housing? OK, under-18s get slightly less than that, but they only have to wait a year or two for the full amount to kick in.

And once you in the lone parent trap, the welfare system is designed to keep you there.

Which is why, if we are to have a welfare state at all (different debate), the least-worst system has to be a universal Citizen's Income system. If an unemployed 16 or 17 year old knows that they are entitled to a modest CI of (following the CIT's suggestion) £34 per week, whether they have kids or not; whether they stay on at school, are unemployed or in low paid/part time work; and if there were no means-testing so that they keep 67p for every £1 that they earn (CI claimants wouldn't get a tax-free personal allowance as a quid pro quo), then getting a job or staying on at school will become a much more attractive alternatives to lone parenthood.

In the Netherlands there are no extra benefits for teenage mothers, no first dibs on council housing, and the child benefit for the baby and the mother are paid to the mother's parents. Little wonder that their teenage pregnancy rate is only one-sixth of ours.

I rest my case.


CatWoman said...

Same b/s here in the U.S. The fucking liberal extremists make sure it stays that way too.
Dumb shit lobbyists harangue the politicians forcing them to keep things status quo or you wont get our votes! Shite shite everywhere the same shite. Er well except the Netherlands huh? And of course the middle east.

flashgordonnz said...

Liarbour gummints (in NZ not just UK) are convinced that advertising works. They look at commercial organisations and see sucsess thru advertising. But they don't realise that adertising is the way you get the message out about something you produce that the public may find useful or desireable and therefore will part with CASH for it.
Unfortunately, any gummint advertising along the lines of "don't get knocked-up" fails in the face of all the "viral marketing" amongst estate teenages that teen motherhood is a viable meal ticket. Maybe if the crux of the adverts was (and this is not a serious suggestion) "get to 22 years of age without giving birth and we'll give you GBP4,000" some one will pay attention.

Mark Wadsworth said...

CW, wait until Hillary or Obama Bin Laden get in, it'll be so much worse.

FG, £4,000 comes nowhere near, these girls in the UK are being offered £10,000 in welfare a year to have children.

Jock Coats said...

Of course I agree on CI. However I'm not entirely sure that the Netherlands' success is just down to money. I seem to recall seeing something that suggested that the age at which kids lose their virginity is itself several years later than in the UK and that this is put down to the quality and breadth of education about relationships froma very young age in a way which engages rather than enraging parents as well as the kids.

Besides, I know a woman who used to be head of the school of Social Sciences here at Brookes whose research speciality was largely about family statistics. I always remember her professorial lecture in which she told us that teenaged pregnancy rates in the UK had remained pretty well stable for many decades and that in fact it was worse in the 30s. The big difference then was that when a girl got pregnant, the more usual response was to force the man to "make an honest woman" of her - at the point of a shotgun if necessary. Consequently many of these births, whilst the pregnancy was outside of marriage, do not register as single mothers.

Scott Freeman said...

Good post. Casual inference in the final paragraph, however. Norway also has lots more snow than Britain, but this is unlikely to be the cause of their lower rate of teenage pregnancy. As far as I know you're not a statistician or econometrician qualified to perform complex regression analysis so I'll let you off :P

"Same b/s here in the U.S. The fucking liberal extremists make sure it stays that way too."

Liberal? Or left wing? And if you are using the subverted sense of the word liberal*, "liberal extremist" would be an oxymoron**.

*As opposed to its original meaning "of or pertaining to liberty" e.g. Founding Fathers.

**By that definition someone is only a liberal if they are NOT extreme! ;)

Mark Wadsworth said...

SC, sure there are other factors, the Dutch are in fact pretty prudish, as JC points out, which also 'helps'. But you might say that my whole post was a 'casual inference', can I ever show with 100% certainty that these girls wouldn't have babies anyway? Nope. Perhaps JC's friend is right.

Anyway, it's not the 'single teenagers having babies' that bothers me as much as the 'taxpayer footing the bill', which I am sure didn't happen to the same extent in the 1930s.

Jock Coats said...

'taxpayer footing the bill', which I am sure didn't happen to the same extent in the 1930s.

Well, I guess that's the point - the shotgun wedding was a way of forcing both parties to take some responsibility. The alternative was a pretty unpleasant combination of religious and occasionally civic facilities for "fallen women".

Whatever the answer, I'm sure we don't want to go back to the sort of stuff that went on even until only a couple of decades ago in the Magdalene Sisters do we?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Forced adoptions on grounds that baby is illegitimate are of course very wrong, agreed there.