Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, in a shining example of how to make friends and influence people, excelled himself with his comments indicating that some women may have to give up their jobs in order to avail of the new personal insolvency service. The TD’s comments were picked up in The Irish Examiner;
“I know one or two women who probably don’t make very much money at all from working, but they do it to keep their position on the career ladder, if you like, and that is a legitimate thing to do.
“But if you can’t pay your mortgage as a result, or buy your groceries as a result, then that is something that needs to be taken into account in any insolvency arrangement.
“Nobody is asking anybody to give up their jobs. What is going to happen is that people are going to come forward, they are going to say ‘I can’t pay my debts, I can’t pay my mortgage’, and in that case, the insolvency practitioner will go through with them why they can’t pay their bills, and obviously a creditor is not going to agree to a writedown unless that has been gone through and they can work out what is the most they can pay.”
We all know two income families where there are women working, and realistically they might be just about breaking even due to the cost of childcare. The outrageous cost of childcare is due to the fact that the Government have failed utterly in ensuring a state childcare system that is affordable and accessible for women or dare I say it, state-funded through an equitable taxation system and free to avail of.
Parents do not enjoy paying out the price of a mortgage to have someone mind their children, but they do it because they have to. They think “My child will be in school when they’re 4 or 5, this is hard but it’s only for a few years.” Working mothers will often add on a bit to the end of that sentence, “…this is hard but it’s only for a few years, and at least I’ll still have my job at the end.” The implication of Varadkar’s comments are clearly that women in those situations where it may be a short-term cost to work should give up their jobs in order to avail of the personal insolvency arrangements. There is no other way of interpreting it.
And make no mistake about it he means women and women only should give up their jobs. Women for the most part earn less than men and it is they who should sacrifice their careers in order to save the family home. If they don’t do this, they can’t partake in the system and if the bank succeeds in having the home repossessed, well it’s Mammy’s fault because that selfish bitch wouldn’t give up her job. Dear Women, Leo Varadkar wants you to pull your socks up and get on with the hoovering because you have no business in trying to make your way in the workplace. That’s man stuff.
The problem with the new personal insolvency arrangements is that they’re wholly inadequate to deal with the level of distressed mortgages and personal indebtedness across the state anyway, so the number of people who will enter them will be limited to say the least. Most women and working mothers who are in debt now, are going to carry on being in debt and no amount of Varadkar’s nonsensical comments will change that.
But in Deputy Leo Varadkar’s world, women after giving up their engagement ring and then sacrificing their jobs because of childcare costs will enter an arrangement with the bank in which they’ll rearrange their debts and mortgage payments. Their children will go to school eventually and they’ll be told to go back to work. Except now there are no jobs so they’ll be dependent on their partner (if they still have a job) or social welfare payments or the kindness of St. Vincent de Paul, because if there’s one thing that Varadkar obviously doesn’t understand, it’s the difficulty that exists for women in attempting to re-enter the workplace after a prolonged absence. The Government is too busy bailing out banks instead of setting about creating jobs, or heaven forbid, doing a fundamental overhaul of how society is structured.
What this demonstrates is how women and women-focused issues are deemed completely irrelevant to the discourse around indebtedness, employment, and even motherhood in Ireland. Who cares if the childcare cost is arguably temporary and leaving her job contains a risk that may result in not getting another job a few years down the road? Who cares that nobody wants to acknowledge that childrearing is a form of labour? Who cares that women are expected to be responsible for childrearing, housework and labour outside of the home? Who cares that it costs up to e2,000 a month to put two children in a crèche? Certainly not the good and the great of Fine Gael.
Nevertheless the focus on women becomes very important when it comes to laying the blame at someone’s door. Just like working class single Mams have been demonised for having children and blamed for their lot of poverty since time began, indebted Mams will now be demonised for not giving up their jobs and sacrificing the family home, or alternatively giving up their job and then being unemployed when their children go to school. Realistically, who is going to stay working when the roof over their head is at risk? One would suspect it’s very few.
For women it’s a lose-lose situation. This is part of a strategy designed to make women work within the home for free to enable men to work outside it for payment. For a State that supposedly extols motherhood and deplores the fact that the reason most Irish women have abortions is because they do not have the financial means to raise children, it’s a particularly peculiar way to act.
Leo Varadkar’s attitude is like something out of an episode of Mad Men, envisioning a world where men are men and women are grateful, but perhaps the women of Dublin West won’t be so grateful at the polling stations during the next general election and if the men had any sense they won’t be so grateful either.
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