Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Social Assistance and the Employability of Mothers: Two Models from Cross-National Research

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Social Assistance and the Employability of Mothers: Two Models from Cross-National Research

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper discusses ideologies of the "employability" of low-income single mothers that are inherent within the social programs of several countries, based on research from a larger cross-national study of policies to reduce family poverty. Although all countries in this study provide social assistance to low-income parents, the eligibility requirements, benefit levels, administration, and basic philosophy behind the programs vary considerably. The main difference in eligibility relates to whether low-income mothers with young children at home are considered to be "employable".

Two models of employability for low-income mothers and two variations within each model are examined within this paper. The ideological underpinnings of these models and the implications these policy options have for women are also discussed. I argue that the concept of employability is being used by conservative governments in liberal democracies to divert attention away from structural unemployment and income security. Furthermore, tightening definitions of employability can be particularly detrimental to low-income mothers if statutory protection and child care services are not provided to help them combine raising children and earning a living.

Resume. Cette recherche se penche sur les ideologies inherentes aux programmes sociaux de divers pays. L'article examine, de facon particuliere, I'influence de ces ideologies sur les definitions de l'aptitude au travail remunere des meres de familles monoparentales a faible revenu. Cette analyse reprend les donnees d'une etude comparative plus vaste sur les politiques destines a reduire la pauvrete familiale. Bien que les huit pays etudies offrent de l'aide sociale aux familles a revenu minimum, les caracteristiques de cette assistance different d'un pays a l'autre. En effet, les criteres d'eligililite, l'echelle des benefices, l'administration et la philosophie de ces programmes sociaux varient considerablement. La difference principale quant a l'eligibilite renvoi aux divers criteres selon lesquels une mere ayant de jeunes enfants a la maison et un faible revenu est consideree apte ou non a occuper un emploi sur le marche du travail.

L'article decrit deux modeles qui definissent l'aptitude au travail remunere de meres au revenu minimum. De plus, deux variantes pour chacun de ces modeles sont presentees. Par ailleurs, l'etude expliques les fondements ideologiques de ces modeles et indique que les politiques qui s'ensuivent ont des repercussions pour les femmes. L'auteur affirme que les gouvernements conservateurs de democraties liberales utilisent le concept d'aptitude a l'emploi afin de detourner l'attention portee au chomage structurel et a la securite materielle. En outre, la restriction des definitions de la susceptibilite d'etre employe peut s'averer particulierement nuisible aux meres a faible revenu. Les consequences seront defavorables si des lois et des services d'aide a l'enfance ne sont pas disponibles pour aider les meres celibataires employees a l'exterieur du foyer a elever leurs enfants.

Introduction: Social Assistance and Employability

This paper examines the concept of "employability" as it applies to low-income mothers with young children, drawing on cross-national comparisons from a recent project of policies to reduce child and family poverty in eight industrialized countries. (1) Although all countries in this study provide social assistance to low-income parents, the eligibility requirements, benefit levels, administration, and basic philosophy behind the programs vary considerably. The main difference in social assistance eligibility relates to whether mothers with young children at home are considered to be "employable" or whether the government is willing to use public money to support these mothers to care for their children at home (Baker, 1995).

Two models of employability for low-income mothers and two variations within each model are examined within this paper. …

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