Laura writes about the paid maternity leave scheme proposal that’s currently being considered by the Australian productivity commission. I can see where she’s coming from in her distaste for the proposal – it’s a case of throwing more government money at people to get them to breed – but I find myself in favour of it.
When you look at parental leave around the world, you can see that Australia is neither the best nor the worst in offering amounts of leave. Proponents of the scheme say “it’s about time we increased the amount of leave”, while others suggest that parenthood is something that should be budgeted for, as an important part of life.
What’s on the table? To pay for mothers to have 6 months of paid leave (and fathers to have 4 weeks paternity leave), there will be an extra 0.5% tax levied. Employers will be given some of the extra money, so they can afford to pay for the leave, and put someone on in the place of the absent worker.
In round figures, for someone earning $52k per year, the levy is $5 per week. Obviously, there will be complaints that single people, and people who have had kids, are stuck paying for the “breeders”. And indeed, that’s how it will pan out – but aren’t they already paying for the “baby bonus”?
The main benefit I see in the system is that it will encourage working people both to have children, and to spend time at home with them, at least for six months, before mortgage payment commitments have the child into childcare and the parent back to work: in the case of subsequent children, this would make it possible for at least one parent to be home looking after a small horde of children, while the mortgage payments continue to be made.
It’s not a policy that will fix the bigger societal problems of greed, and consumerism, but a house price structure that requires two incomes to make a mortgage payment is something that has moved in slowly over the last 50 years, and won’t be overturned by a single policy.
Sure, it’s not perfect: it doesn’t help you if you’re self-employed, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.