Trampolines not traps: enabling economic security for single mothers and their children

Dina Bowman and Seuwandi Wickramasinghe

What needs to change, for single mothers to be able to build a secure future for their families?

At a glance

Low-income single mothers continue to be trapped in poverty and uncertainty, with limited opportunities. We found that:

  • even with careful budgets, making ends meet is a struggle
  • the clash between unpredictable work and fixed hours of child care restricts mothers’ choices
  • conditional and confusing social security creates anxiety and undermines economic security
  • the unfair child support system compounds women’s difficulties.

Reform is required in multiple domains – not only in family-friendly employment and flexible, affordable quality child care, but also in social security and child support policy.

Dive deeper

This paper draws on policy analysis and interviews with 27 Victorian women to propose a multidimensional framework for understanding and achieving economic security for low-income single mothers and their children. It is informed by Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach which focuses on the freedom (actual opportunity) that people have to live lives they value.

Last updated on 15 March 2021



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By Dina Bowman, Maria Mupanemunda and Seuwandi Wickramasinghe 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as a women’s pandemic because of its unequal social and economic impacts. Governments must invest in creating jobs, stimulating the economy and tackling stubborn social policy problems so as to build a better future for low-income women and their families.

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