Growing calls for federal government to increase paid parental leave after 2022 National Jobs and Skills Summit
There are growing calls for the federal government to act on a policy idea that received resounding support at the Jobs and Skills Summit – to help close the gender wage gap.
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the women had “succeeded” at the two-day event.
However, some question why the government did not include an increase in paid parental leave in the 36 immediate initiatives announced on Friday, when the issue was repeatedly raised at the summit.
Unions and business groups have both called for an increase in Commonwealth-funded paid parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks to help close the gender pay gap.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has suggested that the categories of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer be reduced to ‘parent’ to encourage couples to share the load.
President Michele O’Neil has said Australia is behind when it comes to family support.
“Australia has the second worst government-funded paid parental leave scheme in the developed world,” she said.
“In 2022, women shouldn’t have to give up having a family and men shouldn’t fail to get involved in raising their children because paid parental leave is insufficient.”
Advocacy groups like The ParentHood have also backed calls for a raise and executive director Georgie Dent has warned the cost of inaction will be higher.
“By enabling parents to have the flexibility to share care responsibilities without having to worry about their finances, increasing paid parental leave to adequate levels can enable hundreds of thousands of women to re-enter the labor market. work (according to the ACTU report), and contribute to the economic growth of the country,” she said.
Government urged to act
A growing number of non-status have thrown their support behind an increase in paid parental leave.
Independent MP Kylea Tink argues that the government should act, at the latest by 2024.
“The fact that we haven’t seen 26 weeks of shared paid parental leave comes across as one of the key reforms [from the summit] is disappointing,” she said.
“It’s something we know we can do to change the gender dial in Australia and for that reason I think it’s something as a parliament that we should try to prioritise.
“We know from international experience that the quickest way to close any gender pay gap is to introduce shared paid parental leave.”
Fellow crossbenchers Zali Stegall and Allegra Spender also want increased paid parental leave, as well as incentives for parents who share the leave.
Prime Minister Patrick Gorman defended the government’s decision not to include the policy as a priority in the 13-page jobs and skills summit outcome document.
“With a trillion dollars of debt left behind by the previous government, not all good ideas can be implemented immediately,” he said.
“It’s not something we can prioritize at this point.”
Earlier in the week, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said any changes depended on budgetary circumstances.
“There are instances where you have to weigh things against other priorities,” he said.
“And as things stand, it will be difficult to make it work in October, but if and when the circumstances allow it, and the budget allows it, there are some of these ideas that I would like to pick up and use. .”
Independent Senator David Pocock said that argument doesn’t hold water.
“The government cannot have it both ways,” he said.
“You can’t say we want to support women, we want to adopt sensible proposals that are agreed upon at the jobs and skills summit, but at the same time we can’t allow.
“The community wants this to happen, the unions want this to happen, the companies want this to happen, the balls are in the government’s court.”
pay to change
In the run-up to the October budget, government ministers have repeatedly said that spending needs to be restrained due to budgetary circumstances.
However, MPs and senators from all benches have argued that paid parental leave is a necessity that has broader economic benefits.
The Grattan Institute estimated that it would cost about $600 million per year to expand the program to 26 weeks.
The government made new, smaller spending commitments following the summit, including allowing pensioners to earn more without affecting their payments.
Senator Pocock said the government could find the money for paid parental leave by not pursuing tax cuts planned for 2024.
“You can’t keep saying we can’t afford it when you refuse to reconsider $243 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest…mostly wealthy men,” he said.
But Kylea Tink said the planned tax cuts should stay and the government should look to generate more cash.
“To deliver this tax benefit, we need to tackle revenue generation,” she said.
“These opportunities to address revenue generation were looking at taxation of multinational corporations, taxing super profits and looking at how wealth is taxed.”
The previous government made slight changes to the paid parental leave scheme, combining primary and partner pay, and it is still due to be introduced in March next year.
Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley did not want to weigh in on the debate over the need for a further increase in support.
“These proposals should all be crafted with sensible political discussion,” she said.