Increase of parental leave could potentially boost Australian economy

Unions have called for paid parental leave to be extended to 52 weeks, paying parents their actual wage and including superannuation.
By: | September 1, 2022

A report released by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) suggested that halving the gap in women’s pay and participation would boost the economy by A$111 billion (US$76 billion).

Unions also want Labour’s childcare subsidies brought forward by six months and an expansion in gender pay gap reporting, on top of measures already promised by Labour mandating it for big companies.

The Albanese government has opened the door to union demands for multi-employer bargaining, but earlier this year dropped immediate plans to pay super on parental leave, citing the A$200 million (US$138 million) a year cost.

The ACTU wants commonwealth-funded paid parental leave expanded from 18 weeks to 26 weeks and then 52 weeks by 2030. Leave would be paid at the employee’s “replacement wage”, even if that was above the minimum wage. 

The categories of “primary” and “secondary” carer would be replaced by a common category of “parent” under a single, shared entitlement, with incentives for shared parenting.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said, “Australia has the second worst government-funded paid parental leave scheme in the developed world”, behind Bulgaria, Ecuador, and Panama. 

“In 2022, women shouldn’t have to give up on having a family and men shouldn’t miss out on being involved in raising their kids because paid parental leave is insufficient,” she said. 

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Labour’s childcare subsidies, which will save a two-child family an estimated A$82 (US$57) a week, should be brought forward from July 2023 to January next year, said the ACTU report.