Intimacy for money is a taboo, which is why when newspapers want to dramatise student poverty they talk about student prostitutes or, in The Age today, fake marriages to qualify as ‘independent’ for Youth Allowance:
JOHAN Stutt never planned on getting married at the age of 18 – let alone to someone he didn’t love. Some might say it was a matter of survival.
Stories like this have been around for decades – 20 years ago there were ‘TEAS marriages’ [Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, a Youth Allowance predecessor], though usually in the version of the story at the time between gays and lesbians, whose marriage rights weren’t worth anything anyway (another reason for gay marriage – reduce welfare rorting!).
But a quick check of the marriage statistics shows that this is not likely to be a growing problem. The teen marriage rate is in long-term decline, and teenage men have a less than 1% probability of getting married for any reason. In 2006, there were 423 marriages by men aged 19 or under (and at a guess, most of them will never enrol in any degree).
We don’t need to worry much about this kind of Youth Allowance rorting, as not many people who would marry someone they did not love. It’s the easy work/earnings test I want to tighten up, and I am quoted saying that right at the end of The Age article. Unsurprisingly, I am the only person going on the record suggesting that in some cases we spend too much, rather than too little, on student income support.