Banging the drum for single mothers
More must be done to ensure single mothers can secure a living wage, according to Kelly Hunt of the Coalition for the Protection of Children.
During the first of a series of public meetings organised by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Women's Issues and Unemployment, Mrs Hunt said that many women who seek assistance from the charity have work but still need help.
“We do have mothers doing clerical work who cannot make ends meet and provide $700 worth of uniforms for their children because it is a single-parent household,” she said.
Mrs Hunt said the charity had surveyed 165 women who regularly use their services, the majority of whom she said were single mothers.
On average, she said the women were 33 years old. Almost a third — 29 per cent — had more than five children.
In total, she said the 165 women surveyed were caring for 406 children.
“These are children who don't have equal access to the opportunities that other children may have,” she said.
Of those women seeking assistance, 53 per cent reported having nothing higher than a high school certificate or GED and 14 per cent did not complete high school. However, 19 per cent had achieved an associates degree but still needed some form of help.
Meanwhile, 69 per cent said they are on financial assistance, a condition of which included that they are actively seeking employment.
“Imagine if you have five children and you are getting $5,000 plus a month and you don't have a tertiary education,” she said. “It is going to be very difficult for you to find something equivalent to that.
“People will say to me that they know how to work the system. I find that offensive because some of the clients tell me they don't know what else they could do, what could work for them.”
A total of 48 per cent of the women reported being unemployed, while the others needed assistance despite having work — a fact Mrs Hunt suggested demonstrated the need for a serious look at the issue of establishing a living wage.
“We could say we want to raise the wage of low-paying jobs, but we don't know what to raise it to and what it looks like,” she said.
While she said looking at a living wage was at the top of her list of recommendations, she said a greater investment must also be put into education and training programmes to ensure that women are properly equipped for success.
“Where that investment comes from, I don't know, but certainly we need it for our children,” she added.
Meanwhile, Melinda Williams, the chief statistician for the Department of Statistics, made a presentation of statistics, showing the wider workforce.
She noted that the number of men and women in the total labour force — those employed and those actively seeking employment — remains even between the sexes until between 30 and 34 when the number of men involved in the workforce overtakes the number of females.
Men had higher unemployment rates than women. However, there were a greater proportion of women who were not actively seeking employment than men. Mrs Williams said it was unknown why women were not actively seeking work. Further study would be required. Some individual examples could include motherhood or seeking to stay home to care for family members.”
The committee is made up of representatives from both the House of Assembly and the Senate and is tasked with examining the challenges facing women in the workplace and the impact that unemployment is having on women in particular and their families.
It will compile its findings into a report, including recommendations for Parliament.