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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Teenage Mothers to have Baby Bonus in Installments

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Author Topic: Teenage Mothers to have Baby Bonus in Installments
Beppie
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A few years ago the Australian federal government introduced a "baby bonus" to encourage women to have more children, and to silence people who wanted paid maternity leave. This was originally a lump sum of $3000 AUD, is now $4000 AUD, and will soon increase to $5000 AUD.

One of the effects of this has been an increase in scare-mongering about young women having babies just to get the baby bonus (because a few grand is going to cover all the costs of a baby), and according to popular belief, most under-18 mums spend their bonus on a plasma TV. In response to this, the government has now ruled that mums under 18 will get the bonus in installments, rather than as a lump sum.

Personally, I don't buy that all young mothers are spending their bonus on plasma TVs, although I am sure that some of them do-- in fact, I am sure that a LOT of mothers, of any age are spending their baby bonus on expensive entertainment systems of one kind or another. It's just that the young mothers get crap when they do it, whereas with older mothers, it's considered okay. In fact, when the bonus was first introduced, I recall John Howard addressing parliament saying that he thought it was fine if the baby bonus was spent new DVD players and TVs, for the family to enjoy. So, I smell a double standard.

Personally, I don't see a problem with doing the bonus in installments (which makes it more like paid maternity leave), but I think it should be the same for everyone. Honestly, if a person (of any age) is irresponsible with money, they will probably spend it irresponsibly on a lot of smaller items over a series of installments as they are to spend it irresponsibly if they receive it as a lump sum.

I also heard some commentators suggesting that it might be more useful to replace the baby bonus (for everyone) with vouchers for necessities like diapers and baby food etc. However, some people object to this, saying that the mother is the best person to decide how the money should be spent.

Just editing to add-- since posting this, I have found out that mothers under the age of 18 are already assessed by a social worker, who then makes a recommendation as to whether the payment should be made in a lump sum or installments. The changes will mean that all mothers under the age of 18 will get installments. I also read in the papers today that one of the biggest concerns of some groups who pushed for this was actually that some young women were being manipulated into carrying a pregnancy to term by parents or partners who wanted to get the money, when they would have otherwise chosen to terminate the pregnancy-- however, these groups do not get as much media attention as the "teenage mothers are evil cash squanderers" groups.

So-- thoughts, ideas, comments?

[ 11-12-2006, 05:07 AM: Message edited by: Beppie ]

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Trasvi
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(im from Aus as well).

personally i am against the idea of the baby bonus. I really just see it as an encouragement for people to have more babies, and in my opinion it is very poorly thought out; i can see a large number of babies being born into poor family scenes with this idea.
i mean, parents from higher socioeconomic areas will be well aware of the risks and responsibilities inherent in having a child and the money would probably not affect their decision anyway, whereas those from lower 'classes' will be less aware, less responsible, and the money will be a large incentive.

however, i think that the bonus being paid in installments is a much better idea. i believe that a majority of those people who are pregnant before the age of 18 are not fully aware of the responsibilities they have, and paying installments would make the baby bonus much more about helping out with baby costs rather than, as you put it, to buy a new tv. Although i think it should be a much larger portion 40% or so for the first one, and then in 5% allotments.

[ 11-16-2006, 07:14 AM: Message edited by: Trasvi ]

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logic_grrl
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those from lower 'classes' will be less aware, less responsible,

If you think about it, it seems pretty classist to assume that poor or working class people must be stupid or irresponsible, or that they automatically have "poor family scenes".

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-Lauren-
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I'm glad that such a program exists, actually: US women get welfare and low-end healthcare for their children if they're lucky. A voucher program exists here as well -- working in a grocery store, it's pretty sad to see young moms trying to survive on $35 dollars a month with WIC, which covers only the necessities such as cereal, milk, formula, cheese, juice, and eggs.

However, I think that 5,000 upfront is a little excessive and prone to abuse. Even monthly installments likely wouldn't make much of a difference as you said, Beppie; that's still a good amount of money for manipulative family members to potentially grub. I'd much rather support a voucher program that takes into account all the needs of a mom and baby.. beyond food and formula. Furniture, toys/entertainment, clothes for both, maybe financial assistance for higher education (mom or baby), doctor/hospital visits, the list goes on.

It seems teen mothers are never free of the burden people place on them .. as if they're somehow less capable and competant for allowing themselves to get pregnant, despite the fact an equal or greater number of grown women have unplanned pregnancies. Ai. I hope the situation improves everywhere.

[ 11-16-2006, 11:33 PM: Message edited by: Miss Lauren ]

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Trasvi
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If you think about it, it seems pretty classist to assume that poor or working class people must be stupid or irresponsible, or that they automatically have "poor family scenes"

i did not mean to make that connection.
However, undeniably the majority of families who would have poor sex education, poor grasp of the responsibilities and problems in the family (drugs, alcohol etc) are from lower socioeconomic groups.
Those still exist in 'upper class' families for certain, however, perhaps more prevalent in the lower. Whether it is being in that socioeconomic bracket that causes the problems (poor schooling, not much money) or having the problems that ends up putting them in that bracket is a different discussion altogether [Wink] .

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Heather
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quote:
However, undeniably the majority of families who would have poor sex education, poor grasp of the responsibilities and problems in the family (drugs, alcohol etc) are from lower socioeconomic groups.
Depends on where you're talking about: these things do actually vary. So "undeniably?" Not so.

For instance, in the states, urban kids often tend to have better sex ed than those in the suburbs or rural areas (and to boot, rates of teenage pregnancy here don't actually vary all that much between the middle and lower classes: rates of births do, but not pregnancies). If you're assuming young pregnancy happens because of a lack of sex ed, think again. There's actually little to support that. What studies often show instead is that many young adults and teen women who become pregnant know full well how to use birth control: they either just can't access it, or don't access it, or their partner doesn't support its use. (And that holds pretty much globally.) As well, how data is compiled on teen pregnancy makea a huge diff, because who can and cannot afford the upfront cash of abortion is a big factor: often, teen pregnancy data only looks at births, rather than pregnancies, full-stop.

Substance abuse also tends to be pretty across-the-board, even though in some communities, yes, it affects those of us in the lower class more prevalently. However, it's pretty iffy to make that about the family, per se, or assign that to be a "family issue" or "scene." And very rarely is substance abuse what makes someone welfare-level poor. Generally, one starts out there (usually from childhood) and is kept there, period, and obviously substance abuse enables that stasis profoundly when it is an issue.

Both of these issues -- teen pregnancy and substance abuse -- are such HUGE, multifaceted ones that thinking they can be boiled down to who is of one economic class and who another is just overly simplistic thinking. It's just not that simple: if you study either of them, you'll find so many layers and intersections (things about gender inequities and roles, for instance, about racism, about self-image and how a person has been reared to think in terms of what they are and aren't capable of, age dispartities between partners, abuse issues in general...a ton of things, including, but nothing close to exclusively, socioeconomics).

I gotta say, that too, this topic veer feels like a bait-and-switch. You have a government giving women money to bear children, literally: not to help mothers, but to keep women having babies and enable a system which doesn't want to deal with maternity leave. This is not something about philanthropic intent or support of women.

That is far more disturbing in my book than what the women do with the money, and not sure I get why discussion of this would move to demonizing younger mothers in any way. if a young woman wants to have a child for money -- which I profoundly doubt is going on here with this bonus -- it'd be pretty darn silly to do so for a couple thousand bucks when adoption agencies pay far more.

[ 11-18-2006, 02:07 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Trasvi
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Discussion about classes etc aside;
i personally feel that this whole program was a mistake on behalf of the government. its not really about getting parents to not take maternity leave. It is, like you said, to give women a little more incentive to have children.
Australia is an ageing country; there's some statistic that continues to be bandied around about "in 15 years time 50% of the population will be over 65" (or some such). THe government just wants people to have babies, period.

So, now the idea is in, i think that it should come in installments for EVERYONE.

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Beppie
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I agree that the whole program was a mistake. It's designed to make people happy with a "quick fix" rather than investing in infrastructure like childcare centres and better education, that would make things better for all children in the long term. And this is also a government that has made it much harder for people to negotiate family-friendly working hours, etc.

And yes, it is about giving women incentive to have children-- but when this incentive "seems" to work on women under 18, it's a huge crime! (I say "seems" because according to a program I watched about the baby bonus the other day, teenage pregnancies have not actually increased at all since the bonus was introduced).

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wilma_12
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quote:
Originally posted by Trasvi:
(im from Aus as well).

personally i am against the idea of the baby bonus. I really just see it as an encouragement for people to have more babies, and in my opinion it is very poorly thought out; i can see a large number of babies being born into poor family scenes with this idea.
i mean, parents from higher socioeconomic areas will be well aware of the risks and responsibilities inherent in having a child and the money would probably not affect their decision anyway, whereas those from lower 'classes' will be less aware, less responsible, and the money will be a large incentive.

however, i think that the bonus being paid in installments is a much better idea. i believe that a majority of those people who are pregnant before the age of 18 are not fully aware of the responsibilities they have, and paying installments would make the baby bonus much more about helping out with baby costs rather than, as you put it, to buy a new tv. Although i think it should be a much larger portion 40% or so for the first one, and then in 5% allotments.

I agree with your points Travi
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