PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Voters want equality for all mothers: Galaxy poll
, April 3, 2010
By a two-to-one margin, Australians want equal parenting payments for all mums with new babies, in place of the discriminatory Rudd and Abbott paid parental leave schemes.
Overwhelmingly, 64 per cent of Australians want paid parental leave to be made available to all new mothers, whether they are stay-at-home or paid workforce mothers.
The findings come from a Galaxy poll conducted for the Australian Family Association and Kids First Australia.
The poll asked: "In your opinion, should the government's Paid Parental Leave plan give equal funding to both mums in paid work and stay-home mums to afford bonding time with their babies?" It found that strong support for equality of funding comes from:
• 66 per cent of all women;
• 79 per cent of 18-34-year-olds;
• 71 per cent of parents; and
• 73 per cent of people working part-time.
Only 30 per cent of the 1,042 respondents, interviewed during March 19-21, thought that funding should not be equal.
The poll indicates that there is serious dissatisfaction with both the Federal Government and Opposition paid parental leave schemes.
The Rudd Government scheme will offer women in paid employment the equivalent of the minimum wage for 18 weeks after the birth of their child.
The Opposition proposes paying waged mothers their full salary for 26 weeks, or the minimum wage, whichever is higher.
"A far better proposal," according to Victorian Australian Family Association president Tim Rebbechi, "would be to pay all mothers the minimum wage for 26 weeks after the birth of their baby. This would allow them bonding time with their children and guarantee equality between unwaged and waged mothers."
He added: "Neither the Government nor the Opposition paid parental leave schemes provides anything for Australia's highest fertility women - those who have three or more children and who are predominantly stay-at-home mothers."
Just 32.6 per cent of Australian women were responsible for 56 per cent of all the children being born, according to Peter McDonald, professor of demography at the Australian National University.
This figure is based on the number of children born to women aged 40–44 years, at the end of their child-bearing years, as recorded at the 2006 Census. (See Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Census, Basic Community Profiles,
These women are pivotal to Australia maintaining its relatively high fertility rate, as compared to many other Western nations.
Furthermore, most of these women with larger than average families are not in paid work by the time they are having their third child, according to the Australian Productivity Commission's 2009 report, Paid Parental Leave: Support for Parents with Newborn Children
Indeed, the commission admitted that "a large number of parents are outside the paid workforce around the time of childbirth", and therefore would not benefit from proposed paid parental leave schemes (p 3.7).
According to Mr Rebbechi, "The gap between those families with stay-at-home mothers and those in the paid workforce is further magnified by the child-care payment system, which makes payments only to women in paid work who have children in institutional childcare."
Under the currently proposed birth payments and childcare policies, next year the average combined payments to average-sized families on average incomes would be:
• $8,112 for an unwaged mother at home with her children, under current Government and Opposition schemes;
• $13,383 under the Rudd plan; or
• $31,041 under the Abbott plan. This payment could be over $80,000 for some mothers, as it offers a full wage for 26 weeks to a woman earning up to $150,000 annually.
(Note: these figures exclude non-discriminatory funds that go to all families.)Second question
The same Galaxy poll also asked an important second question about childcare payments: "In your opinion, should government funding for the cost of children's care be the same per child, whether the child is being cared for at home by a parent or in a daycare centre?"
It found that 59 per cent of Australians want equal funding for children being cared for at home and for children in a day care centre, while 34 per cent are opposed, and 6 per cent undecided.
Strong support for equality for ongoing care of children came from:
• 67 per cent of parents;
• 72 per cent of 18-24 year olds; and
• 68 per cent of 25-34 year olds.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott says he will announce a birth payment plan for unwaged mothers soon.
Clearly, most Australians want equal treatment both for women caring for children at home and for women in the paid workforce also caring for their children.Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.