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Want to encourage women to go back to work after babies? Don't do this.

by FIONA SUGDEN

My fellow feminists, I fear we made a mistake.

We assumed the days of the 1950s were over and that having a baby didn’t mean you had to say goodbye to your career. We assumed that we could make the choice to have a career and have children and share the workload of raising our children with our partners.

We were on track on for a while there. With the cheer leadings of “Lean In” and “You can have it all” the productivity rate of Australian women in the workplace has been rising for years.

Enter the draft report of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Early Learning.

Haven’t heard of it before? Well the quick summary is this inquiry will result in an historic opportunity for the federal government to make the biggest changes to the childcare system we have seen in decades.

Last week the first draft was released and it recommended cutting the childcare rebate for families with a household income of more than $160,000 a year.

The childcare rebate is a productivity measure designed to encourage primarily women back into the workforce after having a child. It is universal, in that every family can access up to $7500 a year per child as a reimbursement for their childcare costs. Low income families can rightly access more.

“If you means test the childcare rebate, you take us back to the 1950s.”

The marvellous thing about this policy is that is has given many Australian women a choice. An empowering choice to be able to pursue a paid career and have a family if that is what they would like to do.

It’s a choice that means if you’d prefer to work in the home and look after your children full time you can take that path. It’s a choice that means if you would like to combine both work and child rearing you can make that happen.

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If you cut the childcare rebate you remove that choice for thousands of Australian women and their families.

The childcare rebate is not welfare. It is a very effective productivity measure that has transformed Australian society and created more equality between men and women in the home and in the workplace.

You cut the rebate and the ramifications on Australian society will be far-reaching.

A national survey of parents conducted by The Parenthood found 75 per cent of parents would stop work or reduce their hours if they childcare rebate was reduced.

We have come so far as a society in the pursuit of equality for women. We say we want more women to be corporate boards, to enter politics, to run our businesses – well then we have to continue this critical productivity measure that helps to achieve these outcomes in Australia.

We have a long way to go to reach true equality for women but there is no doubt these cuts would take us backwards. They would take us back to the 1950s to when women had no choice about whether they could leave the home to work.

The Parenthood has today launched this national campaign advertisement:

Already 5000 parents have joined the campaign to stop the cuts. You can join to here.

Let’s not make the mistake of taking Australian women back to the 1950s and show our support for women keeping the right to this important choice.

To sign the petition click here.

Fiona Sugden is Executive Director of The Parenthood, a not for profit national advocacy body that aims to be a voice for all parents in business in government. Before this, Fiona was Press Secretary to former Prime Minister Rudd and is currently a media consultant and Mum in Brisbane. You can follow her on Twitter @FiSugden.

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