Jul 22, 2014

Female workplace participation thrown out with parental leave bathwater

The Productivity Commission wants a more efficient and effective childcare system, but doesn't hold out much hope it will spur participation.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Not merely does the Productivity Commission’s draft report on childcare and early childhood learning sink the slipper into Tony Abbott’s “signature policy” on paid parental leave, it also sinks the hopes of policymakers that tweaking transfer payments and childcare availability will increase participation by mothers in the workforce to help offset the coming labour supply problems in an ageing Australia.

“Productivity, participation and population” — the three Ps — would be the key to economic growth in an ageing Australia, we’ve been told repeatedly by Treasury and successive treasurers. But the PC has delivered a body blow to one part of the participation agenda. The best reform scenario it can muster for childcare policy is one that delivers an addition of just 47,000 to the workforce, at a cost of an additional $800 million a year. That’s a cost of around $17,000 a job — what we were paying every year for automotive industry jobs. The net result is additional GDP growth of 0.4% or $5.5 billion.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

3 thoughts on “Female workplace participation thrown out with parental leave bathwater

  1. Exactly!

    The current system is not meeting the needs of parents or employers and needs structural reform. Childcare is expensive, it is difficult to find places or change allocation of days, and the rebate system is cumbersome and heavily administrative.

    I cannot see any change to the structure of the system in the PC Report that will change this.

    In my case, the cost and rigidity of the current child care system make it difficult for my wife to return to work even on a part time basis. We cannot readily access additional days of care due to the essential under supply of places and our centre’s scheduling procedure.

    For example, my wife and I were offered a place at the local child care centre for our children, aged 1 and 2, on Mondays. Monday is a quiet day in the childcare world not much loved by other parents. We had no choice but to accept this day in the hope that other days would become available. Our child care centre charges a fee of $100 dollars a day per child. It also has a policy of charging parents for public holidays even though the centre is closed. In 2013 there were six public holidays that fell on a Monday, and this meant we paid $1200 dollars (less the rebate) on six occasions while receiving no child care service.

    This is user pays gone mad.

    The solution is to extend state based public education systems backwards to cover the childcare and early childhood stages of child development. Total commonwealth funding of the sector (including rebates and the costs of administrating rebates and regulating the sector) should be paid directly to state education departments to facilitate the incorporation of child care and early childhood education into state education systems.

    For-profit provision of services in the childcare and early childhood stages of child development should be phased out.

  2. Stephanie

    @Exactly!, that is an interesting idea. It makes a lot of sense to me. Of course it will never happen because there are too many vested interests and too many influential types who are pro-market no matter what.
    If you can’t get child care on the right days for your wife to go back to work then perhaps a nanny might be a good solution? Probably a little more expensive than paying for daycare for two kids, but perhaps you would end up ahead financially, as opposed to paying for daycare just to get your foot in the door without getting the second income.

  3. stayathomedad

    The current inadequate system is sexist. Aside from a measly ~$10k payment spread over 18 weeks, if you are a mother and the primary carer earning $150k then you are eligible. If you are a father and the primary carer earning $150k you are not eligible.

    I should know, just put in an application and was rejected. Fathers can’t care for their babies? Let’s hope they rectify this sort of terrible policy making in any new legislation.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details