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The Chancellor of the Exchequer wants people to go back to work. It seems that for a variety of reason there are large numbers of people in this country who have had jobs but who are now staying at home. This is resulting in a loss of national productivity and hampering the growth of the economy. So, the Budget is aimed at getting people back to work.

One measure, as I understand it, is to encourage mothers to go back to work by offering them free childcare as early as 9 months after the birth of a child, instead of after 3 years. This may be good for the economy; I am not at all sure it is good for the babies. I have written before how we seem to be sacrificing our children for the sake of our own pleasure or convenience. This looks like more of the same thing. I do believe that babies and young children, certainly up to the age of three, need, above all, the security and love of their own mothers.

Jeremy Hunt has a stronger case for encouraging over 50s to go back to work. Apparently, a lot of people in this age group have health problems that keep them at home: problems that could be treated, but whose treatment is delayed by the shortages in the NHS. That still leaves a lot of over 50s who were furloughed during the pandemic and who have got too used to doing nothing at home. What they are living on, I do not know. Some, it is said, are drawing other benefits, while yet others can afford to retire early.

In every other European country, the work force is now greater than it was before Covid struck, but in this country it is smaller. That is a very sad commentary on the state of our nation today: we have become lazy. Not only are some able-bodied people choosing not to work at all, but others with jobs are not working as hard as they could or should. We seem to rely on immigrants to come and do the heavy lifting for us. I see this every time I go to get the car cleaned.

Near us, there is a Hand-Car-Wash. It is run by a Pole called Janni. It is so good that there is always a queue of cars waiting to be washed, sometimes causing a traffic jam on the road outside. As you drive through, stage by stage, as many as 20 Polish men (and a few Polish women) surround your car, spraying, mopping soaping, rinsing, drying - and if you have the inside done as well – hoovering, dusting, and polishing - until you drive out in a car fit to be resold on a dealer’s forecourt. They never stop. One by one they must have breaks for food and drink, but the team as a whole never stops. It is not cheap, but I simply cannot imagine English people working as hard as they do.

The second great Commandment is this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Part of loving your neighbour is working, contributing to the nation’s economy, doing something useful and productive for the common good. Of course, as we grow older, we need to slow down, but that is not an excuse for doing nothing. Even when we are pensionable we ought to be doing voluntary or paid work of some sort, contributing something to society and to helping our neighbours. Retirement is not an excuse to spend the rest of our lives dossing.


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