Saturday, September 01, 2007

Paid Parental Leave, the low wage economy, and valuing motherhood

The way the Government is handling paid parental leave is a bit of a joke. We have had paid parental leave since 1973 - its called the dpb. If wages weren't so low, we wouldn't need paid parental leave for workers, mothers could afford to stay home for the kids while their partner works.

But our government is quite happy to administer a low wage economy topped up by Working for Families (WFF) payments. This neoliberal approach benefits employers. The Government has acknowledged that it has set a benchmark for basic living standards, hence the WFF payments, but WFF is almost like a subsidy to employers in that it allows them to pay their employees low wages while affording KiwiSaver contributions.

This low wage economy includes women who go to work to prop up the family income - which reduces their WFF payments with a very high marginal tax rate - and stick the kids in a creche, paid for, of course, by the parents, many of whom are on low incomes and not getting enough reduced family support payments to cover basic childcare if they can't access the 20 hours free childcare scheme.

No policies on income splitting for tax purposes, though. That will even assist childless couples if a partner doesn't work.

If the Government says it values motherhood and that motherhood should be a full time job for the first year of a child's life, a year's paid parental leave should start now - not in 2015 - or it should at least provide income splitting for tax purposes in the interim. If it's good enough for 20 hours free policy to start for 3-4 year olds now, its good enough for paid parental leave for parents with children under 1 to start now as well - why discriminate based on the age of the child?

I note there is no similar policies for parents of two year olds apart from childcare subsidies for low income families. Why can the government pay "20 hours free" to parents of 2-year-olds for a year instead of parents paying creches - in some cases with much of one partners low income? The government wants to force parents back to work, that's why, and pay for others to parent kids during the day because it only values motherhood if there is a subsequent economic value attached to it.

Perhaps the Government doesn't want to pay PPL for 52 weeks right now because the WFF package cost will dramatically increase.

No comments: