The Archbishop of Canterbury has delivered a strong condemnation of British work habits, saying the pressure to work long hours risks turning parents into “abusers of children by default”.
In a speech aimed at addressing the values by which children were being raised, Rowan Williams suggested that the culture of work was, in effect, “rewarding neglect” by “offering incentives for the breakdown of family environments”.
Williams placed the culture of work alongside the advertising industry as being among the most malign influences on childhood. He said the constant emphasis on change and novelty was undermining the stability necessary for children to develop.
“People do not grow unless there are things in their environment they can trust,” he said.
“In a setting where relentless productivity is overvalued, we forget what is needed to produce functioning human beings. We can become abusers of our children by default when we ignore the choices we can make to secure their stability – their sense of being seen and being listened to.”
Speaking to a meeting of the Citizens Organising Foundation, a community group based in London, Williams said he welcomed the choices women now had about their work.
Yet he added: “But the story does not end there, because we have moved in very many parts of our society to a situation where there are active incentives to take carers away from the home.”
Such a situation, he argued, may be “oppressive to babies and toddlers”.