Three million children in jobless homes

Big rise in number of single mothers without work an `indictment' of Government values
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The Independent Online
This Christmas, an estimated three million children will be in households without work after a massive increase in the number of jobless single mothers.

Since 1992, an extra 400,000 children live in homes where the adults are unemployed. The rise has occurred exclusively because of the increase in un- employed lone parents, who are overwhelmingly women.

The figures, compiled by the House of Commons library for Peter Hain, Labour's employment spokesman, show a 15 per cent increase in the number of children in jobless families since the last election.

According to the analysis of the Government's Labour Force Survey, the number of jobless two-parent households has remained almost static over the period at about 500,000, while the number of workless lone-parent homes has increased by 220,000.

Mr Hain said the statistics were a "shocking indictment" of a Government which supposedly espoused family values. The data also showed that ministers' employment policies were failing, he said.

Right-wingers, however, will interpret the figures as proof of growing fickleness among young women at a time when unemployment is dropping.

Many on the right of the Conservative Party believe that young, single females deliberately become pregnant to secure higher benefits and priority for council accommodation.

Mr Hain, however, believes that single mothers are being victimised. "Instead of picking on lone mothers and trapping them in poverty, the Government should be helping them to find work," he said.

Ministers were crowing about the reduction in "fiddled" unemployment figures, but their policies were creating ghettos of joblessness and benefit dependency, and storing up serious social problems.

"Far from being the party of the family, Tory policies are trapping families across the country in a world without work. It is a disgrace that three million children face spending Christmas in a home with no one in work. The best Christmas present ministers could give these youngsters is the chance of a job for their parents. Labour believes lone parents need a hand-up, not a hand-out."

He said Labour's policies would provide a national childcare strategy to enable parents to match working hours with family responsibilities and a more flexible benefit system to provide "a bridge rather than a barrier to work".

Mr Hain contends that there is also a growing army of jobless men who do not show up in the official statistics. He argues that the number of males who are out of work, but not officially unemployed, has risen by nearly 30 per cent since 1992.

Some of those "economically inactive males" were sick and disabled, but Mr Hain said that the overwhelming majority of them wanted to work.

He pointed out that these men do not come under the Government's increasingly strict definition of "actively seeking work", so do not qualify for unem- ployment benefit and are therefore not officially regarded as unemployed.