Evaluation of major parties' work and family policies released

28 August 2013

Balanced policies addressing more than just paid parental leave are required to recognise the evolving needs of Australia's families, an evaluation of work and family policies by academic experts from 18 universities including the University of Sydney has concluded.

"Paid parental leave (PPL) is important of course, but it is also important to deal with the long haul care of childcare provision, ensuring flexibility in workplaces and face the growing challenges of caring for older family members," says Work & Family Policy Roundtable (WFPR) member Dr Elizabeth Hill, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

"The Coalition's PPL scheme is superior to Labor's but it puts a lot of fiscal eggs in one basket. Existing research evidence suggests a more balanced spend - and other policy changes - might do more for families and boost labour market participation."

Dr Hill says, for example, increased debate is needed in the area of childcare. She says the Coalition's proposed Productivity Commission enquiry into the affordability of childcare is necessary, but will not ensure good quality care. She also fears extending government childcare support to nannies would be a retrograde step.

"Australia's childcare system has improved in the last seven years. It would be a shame to compromise these improvements by offering government subsidies to unregulated, private nannies. The problems of private nannies are well documented: they tend to increase the exploitation of -often - poor, migrant women and the quality of childcare is inconsistent at best.

"Labor's policy on childcare - promising $300 million to boost childcare workers' wages, continuing the roll-out of National Quality Standards and increasing support for out-of-school care by $450 million - is superior to the Coalition's. But more is needed to address significant childcare challenges such as affordability, accessibility and flexible provision."

With regard to IR policy, the WFPR says neither of the two major parties has addressed the issue of insecure work, the lack of paid leave for those who work in casual jobs and the lack of an appeal mechanism for those refused a request for flexibility.

On pay equity, the roundtable says Labor has now established a Pay Equity Unit to address Australia's widening gender pay gap while the Coalition has made no
commitments on pay equity.

Both parties have made tweaks to superannuation. The Coalition has committed to providing super in its PPL scheme but would abolish Labor's superannuation contribution tax rebate. "This rebate especially assists women and low paid workers," says Dr Hill.

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