Quizzically Musing

Watching the madness

Posts Tagged ‘maternity leave

Should I pay for your right to have children?

with 2 comments

A really cute grandnephew of mine

Of late we in Victoria, Australia have been inundated with either our own elections or election commentary from overseas.  We had our own Federal election in August, followed by the USA mid-terms and now we are in the final stages of the Victorian State elections.  We vote next weekend.  At least we are sensible enough to hold elections on the weekend!

Paid maternity leave has always been a bit of a problem for me.  Essentially the community ends up funding the cost to business.  Replacement staff are needed and this is passed on to the consumer in the prices of goods and services. Perhaps that is a good thing: after all, we do need the next generation and the economy is structured such these days that one income is really not enough, unless you are the CEO of one of our major banks!  So there is an argument for community funding, however indirectly that may be.  I have for years tossed this around in my thoughts against my belief that having children is a personal choice and responsibility.  I acknowledge perhaps it isn’t, totally.  There is a Nigerian proverb, once made famous by Hilary Clinton, that it takes a village to raise a child.  There is considerable truth in that.

Now it seems we want to go a step further.  The incumbant Victoria Premier has annouced a policy of a guaranteed right to return to work, part-time.  Current legislation guarantees only a return to the previous job, which is usually full-time.  This will increase the costs of maternity leave dramatically.  As this is not a look at economics, I will let another quantify the costs to business (as I am sure the opposition will), especially small business which employs the largest number of employees in our economy.

I wonder if people really cost out returning to work at all.  I know years ago my sister and I sat down and worked out all the additional costs related to her returning to work: petrol/travel, office clothes and childcare were just a few of the expenses.  We worked out she would gain about $20 a week.  Admittedly this was quite some years ago (she is a grandmother), she had four children and she had no formal qualifications to earn a high powered salary (such as the bank CEOs).  All the added stress and reduced mother time simply wasn’t worth $20.  Times have changed and the sums may no longer be the same.

What I DO know is that for business this will increase costs, which will be met by everyone – or the business viability will be compromised.  Businesses are not charity institutions, they exist to make a profit.  If they don’t, they fold and people lose their jobs.  How many manufacturing operations have already been moved off-shore due to the cost of labour?  How many call centres are based in India for the same reason?  Those are jobs that Australia has lost.  Yes, I know our unemployment is much lower than, for example, the USA and the UK.  Our economy is stronger.  We need to see it stays that way.

I am not sure this is for the benefit of all.  I see a grab for votes that sells papers and TV time here, rather than a considered analysis of the impact on the economy.  The health of our economy affects everyone, including the new mothers and their newborn babies.

What do you see?

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 21, 2010 at 9:09 am