There are calls for Australia's paid parental leave to be significantly expanded. Here's what we know.

Gender inequality and paid parental leave are finally high on the political agenda.

This week, the Federal Government's Women Economic Equality Taskforce handed down its final report, which laid out an ambitious 10-year plan to curb economic gender inequality in Australia.

The taskforce was set up to identify opportunities for women's economic equality, aiming to reduce the gender pay gap that still exists. Currently the national gender pay gap sits at 13 per cent.

A major recommendation in the report is for the government to expand paid parental leave.

Watch: the need for better paid parental leave. Post continues below.

Video via ABC.

"The task force has resoundingly heard the voices of Australian women – they want action now. In these challenging economic times, we require government leadership to unlock the value women are wanting to create for the benefit of all Australians," the report noted.

"We have arrived at a moment of consequence where a genuine commitment to respecting women, and valuing and nurturing their economic contribution by removing systemic barriers is vital."

Here's everything we know about what's been proposed, and whether we can expect any action in the near future.


What are the suggested changes?

There are seven primary recommendations focused on care, work, education and skills, the tax and transfer system and government processes. Some of them include:

  • Extend the Paid Parental Leave Scheme by phasing the entitlement up to 52 weeks.
  • Legislate the payment of superannuation on all forms of paid parental leave.
  • Increase investment in childhood education and abolish the 'activity test' which requires both parents (if applicable) to be working to access child care subsidies.
  • Boost the availability of high-quality flexible working, and strengthen the rights of employees to flexible work and family-friendly working arrangements.
  • Encourage employers to set gender equality targets and strengthen reporting obligations to include meaningful benchmarks.
  • Introduce a tax offset for people with caring responsibilities who are re-entering the workforce, to curb the "motherhood penalty" facing women.

Who is behind this taskforce?

In September 2022, Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, established the Women Economic Equality Taskforce (WEET).

There are 13 women on the team, many of whom have major profiles in business, gender equality initiatives, and economics. There are also First Nations women, women with disability, rural women, culturally and linguistically diverse women and migrant women in communication with the taskforce.

These taskforce members were appointed by Senator Gallagher, and provide independent recommendations to the federal government on relevant issues.

When would these proposed changes potentially come into effect? 

The report set out a series of timelines for change. Some recommendations were listed as needing to be implemented urgently, while others were recommended to roll out across the coming decade.

When it comes to the paid parental leave recommendations though, the government has stepped up to the plate – slightly.

On Thursday this week, Parliament introduced new laws that will allow parents to access six months of paid parental leave by 2026. This will be at the cost of $600 million a year to the federal government.

This however only works out to be 26 weeks, rather than the 52 weeks recommended in the new report.

Senator Gallagher said the government would like to expand the national paid parental leave scheme further.

"We would all like to continue to improve that scheme, but we've got to find room in the budget to do that as we go," Senator Gallagher told ABC radio.


She continued: "I don't think we would take every recommendation at once... it's a 10 year plan to implement recommendations and so we'll just consider how best we can do that."

Additionally, the recommendation for superannuation be added to paid parental leave payments was rejected by the government, due to budget constraints.

Why have these recommendations been made?

Current data shows that inequality is prevalent and persistent, and it impacts a woman's public and private experiences across her entire lifetime. It's a reality any woman can attest to.

Australian women are much less likely to work full-time than women in many other OECD countries, aka the countries with the world's largest economies. Plus, the report noted women typically make "significant and long-term adjustments" to their paid employment after having children, while men's employment remains largely unchanged.

Women in Australia engage in 43 per cent less paid work than men. Add onto this the finding that Aussie women spend 30.2 hours per week on unpaid care and housework, compared to men who spend 21.8 hours per week.

Interestingly, there are major benefits to be made when we uplift women and their economic potential.

The taskforce found an extra $128 billion could be added to the economy by removing "persistent and pervasive" barriers to women's full and equal participation. As for whether all of the seven recommendations will be carried out by the federal government – the women of Australia will be watching with a close eye.

With AAP.

Feature Image: Getty.

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