26 September 2022
Zali Steggall OAM MP today introduced a motion to the House of Representatives which proposes to extend paid parental leave to at least 26 shared weeks, bring forward the start date for lower cost childhood education and to introduce universal access to paid carers’ leave from 1 January, 2023.
In speaking about the motion, Ms Steggall said: “We know these measures are good for children, good for parents, good for the workforce and good for the economy. Women and parents have had enough of the talk, it’s time for action. I urge the government to bring these changes into effect from January 1 next year”.
Steggall noted that Australia is lagging behind best practice policies from other countries (OECD average is 55 weeks paid leave). There was broad agreement at the recent Jobs and Skills Summit that improving paid parental leave and childcare was essential to improving women’s workforce participation yet the Government has failed to date to commit to an increase to the Paid Parental Leave scheme.
There is strong economic case for these changes. Equity Economics estimates if Australia lifts female participation to that of males it would increase GDP by 8.7% or $353 billion by 2050.
Similarly, Grattan Institute released research showing that shared paid parental leave not only boosts the mother’s earnings it boosts our entire GDP. By increasing the entitlement to 26 weeks, shared between parents, Grattan modelling suggests it would cost the Government $600 million per year but it would add $900 million to GDP per year, as well as boosting mothers’ lifetime earnings by $30,000.
Increasing paid parental leave is a clear lever to closing the gender pay gap. “Enough with the talk about closing the gender pay gap, let’s get on with it.”
A more affordable and accessible childcare system will also help to reduce the workforce crisis. Labor’s ‘Plan for Cheaper Childcare’ will help address these issues, but despite the benefits, it is not scheduled to start until 1 July 2023. “Why the wait?” asked Steggall.
There is also a health imperative to support quality early childcare and education as well as aligning paid parental leave with World Health Organisation’s guidelines.
During the last sitting week, Ms Steggall presented a petition calling for Australia to align with World Health Organisation guidelines and the National Breastfeeding Strategy goals of children having the opportunity to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
“In February 2021 I moved a similar motion and disappointingly, despite a change of government, there is no commitment to date from the Government to update and increase the paid parental leave scheme.” she said.
If the government is serious about supporting women in the workforce and parents, they need to commit to increasing paid parental leave. “Women and parents are tired of waiting. It’s time for action.”
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