Organisations including the Business Council of Australia and Chief Executive Women are calling on the federal government to use the upcoming budget as an opportunity to improve childcare and paid parental leave for families.
The suggestions, put forward by the Business Council of Australia, are designed to increase female workforce participation and include lifting the childcare subsidy from 85 to 95 per cent for lower income families, with payments tapering at one percentage point for every $4000 in additional income over $80,000.
Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott said the proposed changes would smooth out the current tapering system that often prevents women from picking up extra hours and days in paid work.
“A women’s budget is not just about fixing the cultural problems we’ve seen writ large across society, it’s also an economic imperative,” BCA chief Jennifer Westacott said in a statement on Monday.
“Our child care and paid parental leave systems are a barrier to women who want to get back into work and they don’t work for modern families.
“For every dollar we invest in child care, we’ll get $2 back.
“KPMG estimates that the cost of our child care plan would be around $2.5 billion but it would deliver a boost to the economy of around $4 to $5 billion.”
Indeed, the Business Council of Australia has referred to modelling from KPMG that indicates these changes to the childcare system would aid the economy’s growth by up to $5 billion a year. It also comes after the Productivity Commission found more than 90,000 people were not working or looking for a job in 2020 due to the high costs associated with childcare in Australia.
On paid parental leave, the Business Council of Australia is pushing for it to be extended to 26 weeks for couples who share the entitlement more evenly. Parents who do so would be rewarded with an additional one or two weeks of paid leave.
Under the current paid parental leave system, parents can get 20 weeks of paid leave divided between the ‘primary’ carer – most often the mother – who gets 18 weeks, and a ‘secondary’ carer who gets two weeks.
“The current system encourages one parent, almost always mum, to take the lion’s share of time away from work,” Westacott said.
“Under our scheme, families would get to choose how they divide their leave based on what works best for them.”