Why coronavirus may forever change the way we care within families



AAP/Maria Zsoldos

Leah Ruppanner, University of Melbourne; Brendan Churchill, University of Melbourne, and William Scarborough, University of North Texas

The global spread of COVID-19 has illuminated the “care crisis” that has been building for decades.

Women, through their unpaid housework, childcare and elder care, have kept families functioning. However, COVID-19 is putting a strain on women’s abilities to keep the cogs of daily life turning. We are now starting to see the impact of what happens when women are unable to do it all.

What is the care crisis?

For decades, scholars have warned that the bulk of the unpaid domestic work carried by women is unsustainable. The ageing of populations across Western nations will add to the burden even more as women care for elderly parents, spouses, friends and family. This will in turn significantly reduce the employment pool and add strain on those providing the care.




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Mothers do almost twice as much housework as fathers, even when they are earning most of the family income. Greater time in housework is at the expense of their time in employment, leisure and sleep.

Without free childcare or flexible work, families are patching together a tenuous web of caregivers and family members to smooth before- and after-school transitions and to tend to sick children. COVID-19 exposes our care system as being held together by a thread, based on the unpaid and perpetual labour of women.

For decades, researchers have shown women are stressed, pressed and emotionally unwell from the constant struggle to manage these competing demands. The data are clear – women’s larger share of the care is making them sick.

Once COVID-19 started to spread, the world changed dramatically. Now, the invisible unpaid work started to become visible. And someone has to do it.

Worried about childcare? What our searches can teach us

To better understand how childcare during coronavirus is worrying Australian parents, we draw data from Google searches over the past 30 days from the United States and Australia. The US is further along in the coronavirus journey, so can offer some insights into how worry about the virus changes over time.

At first, Americans were more concerned about the economy. But as schools, workplaces and non-essential services start to shut down, the threat of the care crisis has emerged – the concentration of Google searches for coronavirus that include “daycare” and “elderly” intensifies. The work is coming home. Who is now going to do it?



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Australia is now preparing more aggressive social-isolation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, with school and non-essential service closures reported only this week and only in some states.

However, Australia, too, has been slow to respond and the federal government has resisted school closures in part because 30% of healthcare workers in Australia are women. What will happen to this group of workers if they have to look after their children and those affected by COVID-19?

Do all states exhibit the same worry?

Across the US, trends in search terms vary dramatically across states. In the past week, searches in most states have been concentrated on how coronavirus will impact the economy.

But something interesting is happening to the states in the middle of the country – Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota. In these states, searches for daycare and coronavirus are more common than searches related to coronavirus and the economy, grocery stores and the elderly.



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Our research shows mothers in these states have access to better childcare resources – more affordable childcare, longer school days and more expansive after-school care. A forthcoming book, Motherlands, shows mothers in these states are more likely to work full-time, including right before and right after childbirth. These states are exemplars, offering parents the best childcare resources.




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But what happens for families in these states when everything shuts down?

When we dig a little deeper, we see searches for daycare centres being open during coronavirus soared by 100%. Questions about whether those centres will charge fees even while closed increased by 400%. Nebraskans are also worried about their financial futures, but theirs are more tightly linked to daycare.



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Over the past week, Australians are increasing their searches of daycare, with some regional variation. People in Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria are most likely to ask Google about daycare. Families in these states average 31 hours of weekly childcare, or equivalent to another full-time job – time that families will have to fill.

What is the future of care?

COVID-19 will be devastating in its effect on our health, families and economy. But, as we face this new brave world together, it is important to understand the role of caregiving and the importance of carers in this crisis.

To date, women have done this work freely for families. But now the burden is too big and we need to see this work for what it is – important, essential and of great economic value. Individuals can use this as an opportunity to try something new, but also take stock of what we value as a society.

It is an opportunity to realise that the unpaid labour of grandparents and women is not enough – we need real solutions for a problem that, until now, has remained invisible.The Conversation

Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne; Brendan Churchill, Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Melbourne, and William Scarborough, , University of North Texas

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In the age of coronavirus, only tiny weddings are allowed and the extended family BBQ is out


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Only five people will be able to attend a wedding – the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses – and funerals will be limited to 10 in the latest round of life-changing restrictions to be imposed on Australians to fight the coronavirus’s spread.

Real estate auctions and “open house” inspections will be stopped, and Australians will now be prohibited from leaving the country – with some carve outs such as compasssionate grounds – rather than just strongly advised not to do so.

Scott Morrison, announcing the new crackdowns, also told people to stay home, except when it was absolutely necessary to go out. But they shouldn’t have the extended family around the dinner table or over to a barbecue.




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However parents are still being told it is safe for children to go to school, and on Wednesday Morrison will meet teachers’ union representatives to discuss arrangements to protect staff, especially older teachers more vulnerable to the virus. Schools would need to reopen on the other side of the holidays, he said.

Addressing a news conference after Tuesday night’s federal-state national cabinet, Morrison said the widened list of bans would include food courts in shopping centres, except for takeaways. Outdoor and indoor markets – excluding food markets essential to ensure the food supply across the country – will be dealt with by each state and territory.

A range of personal services, including beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlors, will be shut down, as well as spas and massage parlours. This does not extend to physiotherapists and similar allied health services.

Hairdressers and barbers have escaped closure, but with a social distancing limit to the number of people on their premises, and the stipulation a patron can only be there for 30 minutes.

The banned list also includes amusement parks and arcades, play centres (both indoor and outdoor), community and recreation centres, libraries, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities, saunas, and wellness centres. Social sporting events and swimming pools are on the list, as are galleries, libraries and youth centres.

Boot camps may be held outside with no more than 10 people.

Morrison said people should “stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary you go out.

“Going out for the basics, going out for exercise, perhaps with your partner or family members, provided it’s a small group – that’s fine.” As was going out to work, where it was not possible to work from home – but not “participating more broadly in the community”.

Visits to your house “should be kept to a minimum and with very small numbers of guests.

“So that means barbecues of lots of friends, or even family, extended family, coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things, we can’t do those things now.

“These will be significant sacrifices, I know.

“Gathering together in that way. even around the large family table in the family home when all the siblings get together and bring the kids, these are not things we can do now. All of these things present risks”.

He said states and territories were considering whether they would make it an offence to organise house parties.




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“Outdoors, do not congregate together in groups.

“If you’re gathering together in a group, say, 10 people, together outside in a group, that’s not OK. We’ve got to move people on.”

Morrison said that “hopefully” a full shutdown of the retail sector would not be necessary,

“I do note in a lot of the commentary … there seems to be a great wish to go to that point. Well, be careful what you wish for on something like that. … Because that would need to be sustained for a very long time. And that could have a very significant and even more onerous impact on life in Australia.

“We should seek to try to avoid that where it is possible. But if it is necessary for health reasons, ultimately, those decisions will be taken at the time”.

Asked why an outside boot camp of ten people was allowed, Morrison said “that is a business, that is someone’s livelihood and you’re saying that I should turn their livelihood off. I’m not going to do that lightly. And if it is not believed to be necessary based on the medical expert advice.

“I am not going to be cavalier about people’s jobs and their businesses. Where possible the national cabinet together is going to try and keep Australia functioning in a way that continues to support jobs and activity in our economy which is not going to compromise the health advice that we’re receiving.

“And so no, I don’t think we should rush to that sort of [shutdown] scenario. I think you could rush to failure in that sort of scenario.

“You could rush to causing great and unnecessary harm because understand this, this country is not dealing with one crisis, we’re dealing with two crises. We are dealing with a health crisis that has caused an economic crisis.

“I am very concerned about the economic crisis that could also take a great toll on people’s lives, not just their livelihoods. The stresses that that will put on families. The things that can happen when families are under stress.

“I am as concerned about those outcomes as I am about the health outcomes of managing the outbreak of the coronavirus and it is a delicate task for the national cabinet to balance those two.

“Lives are at risk in both cases. And so the national cabinet won’t just rush on the sense of an opinion of inevitability. We will calmly consider the medical advice that is put to us and weigh those things up and make sensible decisions as leaders. I will not be cavalier about it and neither will other premiers and chief ministers.”

He apologised for the systems failure that prevented people accessing Centrelink, prompting huge queues with many people who had lost jobs visibly upset.

“We are deeply sorry”, he said. “We have gone from 6,000 [online traffic] to 50,000 to 150,000,” all in the matter of a day.

He appealed to people “even in these most difficult of circumstances, to be patient. Everyone is doing their best. What we are dealing with is unprecedented. No system is built to deal with the circumstance and events we are now facing as a nation.”.




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The Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said the steep growth in the number of cases – the tally is now passed 2000 – was “very concerning”.

Nine reported advice from a group of experts from the Group of Eight universities commissioned by the federal government.

The panel recommended “Australia without delay implements national stronger social distancing measures, more extensive banning of mass gatherings, school closure or class dismissal”.

The group, in advice presented on March 22, also urged “much-enhanced” testing without delay.

It said: “Countries with significant COVID-19 infections have eventually been forced into strong public health measures in a reactive manner. It became unavoidable from a public health perspective.

“The only difference is at what point these measures are implemented, whether proactive or reactive, and how large the resulting epidemic will be.”

“Proactive measures will result in a smaller epidemic and less stress on the health system. Reactive measures (such as in Italy) may result in a greater burden of morbidity and mortality and delay in reaching the point of recovery.‘

The “dominant” position in the group was for “a comprehensive, simultaneous ban across Australia”, but the other view among its participants was for a “more proportionate response”.

With the government going down the latter path, Morrison and Murphy were noticeably uncomfortable when questioned about the advice.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott, who as health minister in 2004 drove preparations for a possible bird flu pandemic, called for a total shutdown.

“We need to have a very, very complete shutdown now to do everything we humanly can to prevent the spread of the disease,” he told 2GB.

“You can only put the economy into a coma for so long, it can’t be indefinite,” he said.

“But the more complete it is now the more likely it is to be short-lived.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labor MP Tim Hammond quits for family reasons, creating byelection in WA


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Labor Party faces a byelection in the seat of Perth after first-term MP Tim Hammond announced he was leaving politics because of the difficulties of being separated from his young children.

“I thought I had an appreciation of how to manage my duties as a federal member of parliament in a way that did not have such an impact on my family,” Hammond said. “I got that wrong. I just did not anticipate the profound effect my absence would have on all of us.”

His children are aged six, two-and-a-half and seven months.

“As a direct result of me being away from home, the strength of the relationships that I have built with my children have suffered in a way that is simply unsustainable for us as a family, and me as a dad,” he said.

Hammond, 43, elected in 2016, was already a shadow minister and was seen as having a very bright future in politics. He said he would leave politics entirely, ruling out any future tilt at state parliament. He planned to go back into the law, representing the sick and dying, and Aboriginal victims, while being “at home every night”.

Hammond is well respected on both sides of politics. Finance Minister and fellow Western Australian Mathias Cormann said he was “genuinely sad” to hear Hammond would be leaving.

“While we are political competitors, we are also friends and colleagues involved in the same profession focused on making a positive difference to our community and to our country. Tim is a very decent, highly capable individual with a bright future in whatever he decides to do next,” Cormann said.

“It is our state’s loss that Tim will now not continue to pursue his federal political career to its full potential,” he said.

The electorate of Perth is considered a safe Labor seat and is on a margin of 3.3%.

Labor was already waiting anxiously on the High Court’s decision on the status of ACT Senator Katy Gallagher, which is expected to indicate whether three House of Representatives Labor members and one crossbencher will have to face byelections as a result of dual citizenship issues when they nominated in 2016.

Hammond said he would resign “in the near future” after discharging obligations to his electorate and staff. He said he very much regretted that a byelection would be an inconvenience for his community. “The decision to cause a byelection now is the thing that gave me the greatest angst,” he told reporters.

In a detailed statement explaining his decision, he said that “as much as I have tried desperately, I just cannot reconcile my life as a federal member of parliament with being the father I need and want to be”.

“I am not saying that the life of a Western Australian federal member of parliament is unmanageable. Many of my colleagues make it work. But it is time to be brutally honest and admit that I am not one of them.”

Hammond said he had “sought professional advice and assistance to try and preserve our family unit in a way that I felt confident would not suffer from my absence. But my time from home simply means that the strength of my relationships with my daughters and my son has been compromised.”

He said he had privately agonised over his decision for many months.

In a Perth radio interview he said the baby in his family had been “an unexpected but wonderful blessing that wasn’t on the cards when I was elected almost two years ago”.

He said he had spent many years seeking to become an MP. But now “it just wasn’t working”. It was very important to him as a professional person that he give the job 120%.

At a news conference Hammond said the travel – which is often mentioned in relation to MPs from WA – was just one part of it. It was not so much the travel per se – it was just “about absence”. To do his job properly, he had to put down his bags and immediately get out again, to fulfil his obligation to the community.

He said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had been “understandably surprised”, wanting to make sure he had thought through his decision.

The ConversationShorten said that he was disappointed Hammond would not be part of the next caucus, “but as a husband and a father, I’m glad he’ll be with the people he cares about most in this world”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Brussels attacks: why do family members commit terrorism together?


Lazar Stankov, Australian Catholic University

It appears to be increasingly common that terrorist attacks not of the lone-wolf variety involve members of the same family.

Some of them, like the San Bernardino attack last December, are committed by married couples or romantic partners.

But quite a few recent terrorist atrocities – the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Boston Marathon bombings and now Tuesday’s Brussels attacks – have been perpetrated by siblings. So is there a link between within-family radicalisation and acts of terrorism? And is terrorism different from any other crime in this respect?

Family ties and the militant extremist mindset

Both genetics and environment are known to influence criminal behaviour. But the exact nature of these influences and their relative importance are still being debated.

It can be expected, therefore, that genes contribute to terrorist behaviour. But it is wrong to conclude that just because two individuals have a common genetic make-up, one will follow the other if the other becomes a terrorist. Instances of only one family member displaying criminal behaviour are very common.

Nevertheless, there may be environmental factors that contribute to and interact with genetics to cause terrorist behaviour. If so, one would expect to find more terrorist acts than other kinds of criminal acts committed by members of the same family. Family members share both genetics and environment to a greater extent than people in general.

Studies of the militant extremist mindset provide clues to why we can expect to find more siblings among terrorist cells. From the three components of this mindset, only one – “nastiness” – is directly linked to other varieties of criminal behaviour.

Violent criminals of any kind tend to strongly advocate harsh punishment of their enemies. For example, they are more likely than most people to approve of physical punishment for insulting one’s honour.

While both genetics and environment may be implicated in “nastiness”, the other two components of the militant mindset – “grudge” and “excuse” – represent environmental influences to a greater extent. These are usually the focus of recruiters.

An important component of radicalisation is a strong feeling that the group one belongs to is under threat from some other group – that is, the person feels a “grudge” of some kind. A common example is the feeling that the West has exploited and hurt “my” people, and this needs to be avenged.

Sometimes grudge is more general and not oriented towards a particular group. The person simply feels that this world is unfair and full of injustices.

“Excuse” is a dressing-up part of extremism. It relies on religious and ideological “higher moral principles” to justify the feelings of nastiness and grudge.

It follows from the nature of the militant extremist mindset that we can expect to find more siblings among terrorists. This is because such attacks tend to be carried out by people who are more ready for action and are prepared to be vicious in dealing with their enemies. This tends to be a shared characteristic of criminal family members.

Being raised together – and therefore being exposed to the same set of stories about the enemies and the same set of moral, ideological and religious reasons justifying their feeling of hate – is likely to contribute significantly to the same tendency.

And then there is a feeling of trust, due to a common upbringing and feelings stronger than typical camaraderie when you are doing something together with somebody who is close to you. Overall, it is likely that there will be more instances of siblings committing terrorist attacks.

From a security point of view, it may be reasonable to ask whether this tendency calls for a different approach to detection. There is currently an emphasis on internet-based radicalisation, rather than on person-to-person contacts. Family interactions diminish the role of the former and point to the need to maintain traditional policing methods.

The Conversation

Lazar Stankov, Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Australian Catholic University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wife of jailed American pastor lobbies Iran for his release, says her family has been ‘torn apart’


The Lead with Jake Tapper

His daughter just celebrated her seventh birthday, a second celebration without her father.

She asks her mother how many more birthdays until dad comes home.

“I don’t know what to tell her,” said her mother, Naghmeh Abedini.

It has been one year since the Iranian Revolutionary Guard took Naghmeh’s husband Saeed, a U.S. citizen of Iranian birth, and threw him in a prison in Tehran.

Saeed was arrested and charged in Iran during a visit in June 2012. The 32-year-old converted to Christianity from Islam and then became a pastor, living in Boise, Idaho. He has been detained in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since late September.

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