Australia should make it easier for women to get back into the workforce and give families more control over how they raise their children by fixing the broken childcare and paid parental leave systems.
This is according to the Business Council of Australia, which believes that doing so could grow the economy by $5-billion.
With Australia’s population growing at its slowest rate since World War I it is critical that the country lift female participation and make the most of its homegrown talent, council Chief Executive, Jennifer Westacott, said.
“More than 90,000 people across Australia said they weren’t in the workforce last year mainly because of the high cost of childcare, according to the Productivity Commission,” Westacott stated.
Systems don’t work for modern families
A state-by-state breakdown supplied by the Business Council of Australia shows that in New South Wales there were 26,800 people not in the workforce for this reason. In Victoria it was 20,700, in Queensland it was 17,900 and in Western Australia the figure came in at 13,800.
“Our childcare and paid parental leave systems are a barrier to women who want to get back into work and [the systems] don’t work for modern families, Westacott said.
“We’re proposing changes to smooth the sharp financial cliffs in the system which discourage people from picking up extra hours, or realising their full potential in their careers.
“These changes aren’t just about giving women a chance to get back to work. This proposal means people can work to their full potential and advance in their chosen fields without being punished by high childcare costs when they get even a modest pay rise.”
Flexible system and cultural change needed
Regarding paid parental leave, the council is proposing a more flexible system that would encourage both parents to take more equal caring responsibilities and get the ball rolling on cultural change, she explained.
Westacott said the current system encourages one parent, almost always the mother, to take the lion’s share of time away from work.
“Families should be able to make the decisions about who takes time off to care for kids without filling out hours of paperwork.
“We estimate the cost of transforming the paid parental leave system, helping create cultural change and letting families make their own decisions, would be around $1-billion a year.”