The Hard-Working Mums who ‘Drain the Economy’ Speak Out

By Clare BruceFriday 10 Mar 2017

Listen: Katrina chats to Hope 103.2 listeners about the contribution of mothers to society. Above: Katrina Roe.

Stay-at-home mums have today lashed out at an OECD report claiming they can cause ‘large losses to the economy’.

Tabloid newspapers have used the phrase ‘a drain on the economy’ in their headlines about the report—and women have reacted.

Mothers phoned into Hope 103.2’s morning show defending their tribe, highlighting the immense, free contribution they make to the economy on a daily basis. Morning TV shows and mum-blogs also leapt into the fray.

The report that’s triggered this outpouring of maternal wrath, is a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, called Connecting People with Jobs.

“There are potentially large losses to the economy when women stay at home.” ~ OECD

Even though the report advocates for minorities who are under-represented in the workforce, it has attracted the ire of mums by stating that “there are potentially large losses to the economy when women stay at home or work short part-time hours”. It describes at-home women as “one of the areas of greatest untapped potential in the Australian labour force”, “especially those with children”.

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OECD report on employment with quotes about women and the economy highlighted

Above: The study that’s prompted discussion about the role of mums.

What At-Home Mothers Actually Contribute

In a tongue-in-cheek but spirited talk segment, Hope 103.2’s Katrina Roe paid tribute to mums who forego fulltime work.

“You just can’t win as a mum,” Katrina said. “You try and do your best by your children, plus you’re trying to contribute to the family finances, but ‘Oh, we should all be working more’, apparently. All those years I spent doing reading groups at school, I was really draining the economy?

“The whole family would fall apart if we worked full time, because we’re all running our kids around to their activities, and making them nutritious meals, and helping them with their homework, but ‘that doesn’t contribute to the economy?’ You can’t measure the value of staying home to look after your kids.”

Mum and daughter working in the kitchen together.

Katrina, who works part-time herself, had many callers illustrating her point.

Mum-of-four, Brenda, said she works full time now, but stayed home for several years. She pointed out just how much mothers are contributing to society.

“You can’t measure the value of staying home to look after your kids.” ~ Katrina Roe

“My goodness, the time I was raising four children at home, mums were running the school canteen, we were running the school uniform shop, we were helping out with things at church, we were helping out everywhere in the community,” she said. They say that volunteers are the backbone of the country—well who are the volunteers? They’re actually mostly mums, and some dads who work from home.”

Listener Shelley said she works two part-time jobs so that she can spend the afternoons with her children, and already experiences guilt when she can’t make it to her kids’ events. She is not interested in working full time.

“I applaud the stay-at-home mums…it is a full time job,” she said.

Caller Sarah said the OECD would probably class her as a “huge” drain on the economy, because she stays home to care for her four children, all who have special needs.

“I’ve got my hands full,” she said. “I’m studying to be a teacher’s aide as well. I really applaud all the stay-at-home mums that want to look after their children. It is a full time job.”

Mums Build the Economy of Today and Tomorrow

Mother and child preparing dough with rolling pin in kitchen at home

Another busy listener, mum-of-five Portia, argued that by staying home to raise her children, she is contributing to the economy of the future.

“I’m raising five tax-payers— they’re all boys,” she said.

She also made the point that parents contribute a great deal to the economy and society, through volunteering.

“I’ve been running our local Playgroup for the last eight years,” she said. “I’ve helped a lot of refugees that come, and they’re really shy, and they become more confident, and they’re able to go and do an English course.

“I feel that Playgroup has really helped the community. We’ve helped identify some kids that might be a bit autistic. Just by coming to Playgroup, the kids have been able to learn a lot.

Group Of Mothers With Babies At Playgroup

“I also teach Scripture at the public school where my kids attend. And any improvements that are done to the school are from fundraising from the [Parents and Citizens]. Without the P&C, we wouldn’t have shelters, we wouldn’t have the playground equipment. And then you’ve got stay-at-home mums who take their elderly parents to their appointments and look after them.

“I think there is a need for women in the workforce, but there is also a need for women, or men, even, to help with those things in the community.”

The OECD Report is Not Anti-Woman

Despite copping some heat, the OECD report could actually be considered pro-woman, as it urges Australia to follow other nations in making employment more accessible to women who want it. Suggestions include more affordable childcare, and “facilitation of a better work-life balance”.

It also points out that “women’s levels of educational attainment now match or outpace men’s in most OECD countries”.

The report also advocates for minorities under-represented in the workforce, such as youth, indigenous Australians, and people with disabilities and mental health challenges.

“Giving people better opportunities to participate actively in the labour market improves well-being,” states the OECD website.

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