David Cameron was in Stockholm yesterday, eyeing up the tax breaks Sweden offers. While at the Nordic-Baltic summit in Stockholm he said he had his eye on what is known as the 'maid credit', which offers tax breaks for cleaners.
Posh families must be delighted, the change would mean savings of thousands of pounds a year for the hired help: the rest of us are left scratching our heads.
Swedish systemSweden offers some amazing benefits and tax breaks for parents to enable mothers to return to work. Nurseries are part-funded by the government and to keep childcare costs down, there is also a maximum fee policy which means parents never have to spend more than 3% of the family's income on childcare. Child benefit is also particularly generous to help meet the cost of care.
But did Cameron choose any of these fantastic options to help UK mothers return to work? Of course not: Cameron has selected cleaners as the answer to Britain's ills.
Cameron's planCameron said: "What you do in Sweden in terms of tax help and tax relief, not so much on childcare but on other things that help women go out to work, I thought that was a very interesting idea that I want to look at further."
Certainly the tax breaks are going to help those who are wealthy enough to have domestic help. It is also less likely to mean cleaners are paid cash-in-hand and means fewer illegally employed domestic workers.
BizarreHowever, Cameron is out of his mind if he thinks these things are a bigger burden for the vast majority of working women than childcare. How many women do you know who say they would love to go out to work, but they just can't cope with the hoovering? By contrast there are hundreds of thousands of women chomping at the bit to return to work who can't afford childcare.
Cameron seemed to hint that the few hours of free childcare on offer to three and four year olds in the UK had solved that problem already - but experience would seem to contradict his claims. For most working parents, the deduction they see in their childcare bills when they start to receive the subsidy is so low that they are compelled to call the nursery to check if there has been some sort of mistake.
Cameron should be honest with us and himself: giving a tax break would be a sop to the very wealthy Tories he wants to get back on side after taking their child benefit away. Given the number of cleaners working in the grey market, there's a chance it wouldn't cost the government anything, and could actually net them more tax overall.
Mothers, meanwhile, are going to have to find their own solutions if they want to get back to work.