That is a question that we may over the coming months find real answers to - the hard way. With the full force of redundancies throughout the UK yet to be felt, and despite the claims that already financially-stretched couples will not be able to ‘afford’ to get a divorce, we could be seeing a real link between income shifts and people leaving their relationships to go it alone.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of women seeking Job Seeker's Allowance rose once again in July 2011 for the twelfth month in a row. Observer economics editor Heather Stewart has noted: “Women make up almost two-thirds of the public sector workforce, so it's hardly surprising they've been hit hard by the wave of job losses since the government announced its austerity programme last autumn.”
Part of the shift results from a push – begun by Labour but stepped up by the government – to nudge single mums into the workforce. Mothers are now shifted off long-term benefits such as income support, and on to jobseekers' allowance when their youngest child is seven. That means they have to attend regular interviews and show that they are actively looking for work. It’s hard enough having to try to run a family and work, but will the psychological pressures of job hunting combined with fears of not being able to pay the mortgage - which requires two incomes, not one - lead married couples to breaking point?
I have heard stories of men not revealing to their wives when they face redundancy or bankruptcy, unable to be the bearer of such bad news. Is it shame - or fear of a resulting divorce? I have certainly felt the effects of the link between different life crises through my Starting Over Show events, where the majority of exhibitors were focused on supporting people through a nonadversarial divorce, but now an increasing number of exhibitors are supporting visitors who are dealing with redundancy and looking for start-up business opportunities as the best way to create a stable financial future.
According to Elizabeth Warren in a NYT article:
“Many people in bankruptcy were solid bill payers until something knocked their legs out from under them. For two-thirds of these people, it was loss of a job, for 40 percent it was a serious medical problem and for 20 percent it was the economic fallout of divorce. Divorce may be a factor leading to bankruptcy, but bankruptcy doesn’t cause divorce.”
If this is the case, then perhaps the continued scything of jobs by large private and public sector organisations will not result in more divorce after all? Well, not according to a study based upon the results of the British Household Panel Survey from 1991-2005.
The study suggested that married men and women in Britain who lose their jobs are more likely to divorce within a year than other couples. Norwegian researcher Morten Blekesaune said the findings show the cost of unemployment isn't just financial. Blekesaune's findings were based on 3,586 couples in marriages or long-term relationship.
Blekesaune said a woman losing her job is more likely to lead to partnership dissolution the longer the partnership has lasted, while the effect of a man losing his job is the same, regardless of how long a couple has been together. The study was published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, and indicates that whoever loses their job, that indeed the fallout could be a great deal more than just financial.
Suzy Miller Creator of the Starting Over Show www.startingovershow.co.uk
Redundancy and unfair dismissal legal advice and ‘survivor coaching’ are available at the Starting Over from divorce & redundancy Guildford Road Show on 22 September. To book a free advice powwow call Suzy on 07525 059 634. www.startingovershow.co.uk