THE BLOG

Can All Newborns Have the Life Chances of Baby Cambridge?

01/08/2013 11:43 BST | Updated 30/09/2013 10:12 BST
AP

A child was born last week to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and much of the country was in raptures at the mere mention of the name 'George' and to see the first official pictures (he looked like all babies).

We haven't heard much from the parents on their aspirations for his future employment, which seems reasonable given that he is only a day old, but the question of what to do for a living won't need to be asked of the royal tot.

Born to rule, HRH Baby knows what his job will be - barring a republican coup against King Charles III, he will be King - and only has to decide which branch of the armed forces he will join to fill some of his time before he is called to the throne.

When new Granddad Prince Charles came into the world , the working class kids who breathed their first at the same time were on a job path almost as certain as his.

If you were born in the Welsh Valleys or South Yorkshire, you were likely to become a miner. In Sheffield, a steelworker. In Lancashire, you were probably heading into manufacturing, in Northampton into shoemaking.

Many of the other babies born yesterday have no such certainties. They have every theoretical choice of job, but little genuine opportunity to reach those they really want and diminishing chances of finding any work.

A £9,000-per-year university education would boost their chances, but they are more likely to be put off than HRH by this fee, and anyway, high-cost schooling is likely to be a feature of the prince's life, not a barrier to his advancement.

Baby Cambridge's life provides a link to this more established time, a time when employment may been stifling but was at least secure for the majority.

He has his guaranteed job, and as many other opportunities as his connections will provide. He will never need the government's youth contract which is failing more troubled young people right now.

He will never need benefits, beyond the few million provided by the tax payer, but he will never be asked to demonstrate he has 'earned' his payments like less privileged people, or have them capped at an unliveably low level, or go through an assessment of his needs that is weighted against him from the start to prove he deserves them.

Ironically, this endless tightening of conditions for benefit claimants would have made more sense at a time when there was work for all, for Kings and coopers, back when politicians accepted responsibility for full employment rather than leaving it to the unforgiving machinery of the free market.

They don't make sense for today's deregulated jobs market, which sees parts of the country - some parts of the north have over 50 jobseekers for every vacancy - cast adrift, while Reading, near Windsor Castle, Cambridge, where Baby Cambridge might go to University, and Winchester, where he could go to school, all have more jobs than people.

In other words, Baby Cambridge is unlikely to even see the deprivation that exists in this country, let alone experience it first hand.

The coalition government wants to hamper the life chances of those born without privilege by paying child benefit only for the first two children in a family. Some want to go further and cap benefits to young mothers so they will no longer be entitled to housing benefit or council housing, even as HRH returns from hospital to housing paid for from the public purse at rather greater expense.

This is on top of two benefit caps, below-inflation rises in their value and increased sanctions - the removal of benefits - for little reason and at great cost to claimants and the country that has to clear up the mess left behind.

These erosions of the most basic income for those that need it most are likely to mean more children growing up in poverty, their life chances reduced as adults and their employment likely to consist of an unbreakable cycle of 'low pay/no pay' as their low-skilled jobs are relocated offshore and their welfare payments are stopped on spurious grounds.

A new baby is something to celebrate for those who have little materially to worry about. But we must remember those born to others, in the wrong place and in a more challenging set of circumstances, and try to help them have the same life chances as Baby Prince George, the little benefit claimant that could.