Whatever about a leprechaun economy, we’re living in a ‘granny economy.’


Forget about a leprechaun economy,  were living in a ‘granny economy.’

In the absence of earnings to cover high rents, mortgages, bills or childcare, grandparents have to step in.

Earlier this year, Leo Varadkar suggested our older ‘parents’ help us secure a home deposit, or ”we stay at home for a period and raise a deposit in that way,” now the Independent Alliance put forth a proposal that our parents who look after our offspring get reimbursed, thereby officially rendering them childminders.

These are busy times for retirees. Are they not meant to be kicking back, planning a long sought after painting holiday in Tuscany?

At first glance, the ‘grandparent and grandchild expenses reimbursement scheme.” which, would be available to all grandparents who care for their grandchildren for more than 10 hours per week sounds like a nice idea.

Indeed, why shouldn’t grandparents be rewarded financially for looking after young children? It’s tough work. Up to four grandparents per family, 70,000 grandparents in total could be eligible for the grant, costing around €71m a year, but it’s tokenism, which will be costly and difficult to administer. It’s like a temporary filling. ‘It’ll do for now, so we won’t bother trying to get to the root of it.’

Even though Shane Ross insisted the scheme wasn’t a solution, he said it is something that “should be encouraged and the reward is significant.” Significant? €1000 a year? Did I miss something. Are we living in the 1950s? Judging by the way family life is going, it sounds like it.

I know we’re making strides where childcare is concerned, and there are monies available to parents whose children use creches before the age of three, but for some reason we still can’t get it right.

Pertinently, there simply aren’t enough places to accommodate young children in Ireland. I experienced this myself and moved South Africa where I paid €250 per month for excellent full time childcare until I could avail of the ECCE scheme, which is also short 16,000 places. Had I stayed home and decided to get a full time job my mother would have had to look after my toddler.

It’s not a situation I would have liked to inflict upon her, but a lot of people have no choice.

On top of that, 460,000 adults are living at home again, while one in five get deposits for mortgages. Is there anything else granny can help us with?

“Well that’s the way it is,” I hear all the time. What? People in their 70s and 80s looking after people in their 30s, 40s, 50s even? Should we not be looking after them? What happens when they aren’t able and we’re working full time. Do we return the favour by karting them into a home?

As a business model this granny state is fragile at best. Not all grandparents are in a position to help out, some aren’t alive anymore, some don’t have the money or the inclination. Plus the way we’re having kids later means it’s cruel to have them look after them after a certain age. Also by paying them, you are turning them into staff, thereby creating dissension.

It’s like a maths conundrum. If there are 240,000 ‘hidden homeless’ working adults living at home with their ma, plus 70,000 grannies minding grandkids, how many kids of people, who according to Mr Varadkar ‘get up in the early in the morning and go to work’ will sleep on the street if they were kicked out tomorrow?

It’s not really great for morale is it. ‘Yeah I’m 40, I work full time, yet and am fully reliant on my parents for everything from childcare to living arrangements. Its part of a government scheme.”

I often ponder how our generation is going to pay for our kids? Friends, hilariously work out how much they will cost until they’re 18. If you’re considering a third child, ask yourself, can you afford first cars, driving licences, college, first houses, weddings, christenings, for their kids? As a child loving nation, we don’t really look ahead to see if we can afford them down the line. “Sure granny can do that.”

In Malta, you get free child care and free healthcare, in Denmark your local council pays for someone to come over to your house to do chores if you have more than two children. In Germany, creche fees are minimal and you avail of €184 per month children’s allowance, plus top grade services.

My friends and family in Germany must think I’m a right loser. They have skis in the corners of their finely stacked cellars. Here, us peasants on €50,000 a year or whatever, sleep beneath a George Michael poster in our teenage bedrooms.

Whatever about bringing mum to see ‘Hair’ in the West End of fulfilling dad’s lifelong dream of a trip to the Festival of Speed in Goodwood.

Rescuing an adult child repeatedly means setting up a pattern of dependency and expectations and people will take it for granted. Not wanting to sound like Oliver Twist, but in my day, I worked from 15 onwards, 12 if you could the paper run and paid for my own stuff.

These days, it’s not uncommon for people to eye up granny’s house- “Why doesn’t she just move into our flatlet. it’s easier for her. With inheritance tax being the way it is, we’d get nothing. She doesn’t need all that space.” Er no. It’s her house.

To global outsiders we’re a family friendly country just in time for the Meeting of Families. The pontiff will be impressed. Not that we have to ‘meet’ ours, seeing as lots of us are still living in their pockets.

There is a sense of limbo about it all. Besides the obvious solutions that are being offered by economists, we’ll have to wait until the ‘recovery’ ends and we can be our own people again.