The country is up in arms. Our new government has just put forward its budget proposal and it includes cuts in child care subsidy and means testing for the baby bonus. There are other controversial items in the budget, but for now I’m most concerned about this maternity leave issue. I’m not 100% sure if there is anything in it about maternity leave, I think that is still open to recommendations.
So the PM’s “key advisor on women’s issues” has concocted this absurd proposal for 12 months paid maternity leave and 6 weeks paternity leave. Stay at home mothers would still receive the $5,000 baby bonus – a lump sum paid to parents after the birth of a child.
Let’s look at some different scenarios should this plan be implemented. Example one – I work full time at a private company and discover I’m pregnant. By law, this company has to pay me minimum wage for 52 weeks and hold my position open for me. They most likely won’t want to pay someone to come in and do my job for 12 months because then they’re paying for the same position twice. So they have to figure out how to operate with one less employee for a whole year. But at the end of that 12 months, I decide I really like being a stay at home mum, I think I’m going to quit my job. What part of any of that is fair to the company? Why should they have to pay for me to have a child?
Example two – I apply for a job and it comes down to me, a 29 year old married female with a child, and a 29 year old male married with a child. We both have the same qualifications and would both be perfect for the position. Who do you think is going to get it? The applicant they have to pay 6 weeks paternity leave to, should his wife become pregnant with baby 2, or the applicant they have to pay 52 weeks maternity leave to, should SHE become pregnant? Don’t tell me they wouldn’t come up with some inane, LEGAL, reason for hiring the male applicant.
The means testing for the baby bonus states that families making more than $150,000 a year will NOT receive the baby bonus. We don’t make more than $150,000 a year, so it doesn’t upset me that much. I’d like to think if we did make $150,000 a year, we wouldn’t need $5,000 from the government. But does this suggest the poverty line is $150,000? If you make $150,000 a year, are you wealthy? The cost of living in major cities across Australia is not cheap. Families who earn over $110,000 a year are no longer eligible for subsidized child care. So instead of encouraging women to go back to the work force and contribute to the economy, they will be forced with making the decision to work and make enough to cover childcare, or to stay at home and take money from the government.
Perhaps there is no middle ground on this issue. Perhaps there is no happy medium that will appease stay at home moms, working mothers, tax payers with no children, take payers who have already raised their children and private employers. I understand the government is trying to make it easier for lower income families, but should upper income families be punished for having good jobs? Will forcing one parent to stay home because the cost of childcare is too high create more middle and lower-class families and put more of a strain on tax payers? There are just too many facets of this particular social issue that it is difficult to know what is right and fair, and what is ignorant and irresponsible.