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JAM: Why stay-at-home mums shouldn't get PPL.

Jamila Rizvi

Last year I paid income tax.

I’m not going to tell you exactly how much tax I paid. Suffice to say it was less than James Packer or Gina Rinehart but more than most university students or Paul Hogan.

My taxes paid for a lot of things that I use – things that me and mine directly benefit from. Smooth roads to drive on, cheaper prescriptions for the pill, subsidised university degrees, trams to take me to and from work, affordable physiotherapy for my partner’s slipped disc, and three seasons of the ABC television series Rake.

My taxes also paid for a whole lot of things that didn’t benefit me personally but contributed to the overall peace and prosperity of the country I live in. Welfare payments to lower income earners who are raising a family, machinery to properly arm our defence forces, pensions for older citizens who are no longer able to earn a living, investment in crisis services for those without a roof over their heads and education for every single Australian child.

The benefits of these payments to me as an individual are perhaps less obvious, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It is in all our interests that we live in an Australia where those who are doing it tough are supported and that investments are made to keep people in education, training and work to ensure our ongoing economic success.

This week Coalition backbenchers have been agitating about paid parental leave and arguing that the payment should be made available to stay at home mums as well. It’s important to note here that this isn’t about Labor’s existing scheme versus Tony Abbott’s, this is about whether the Government should be in the business of paid parental leave at all and if they are – who should get it.

Nationals Senator Ron Boswell.

Nationals Senator Ron Boswell has been leading the charge and indicating that in his view, fairness requires paid parental leave payments be extended to stay at home parents too. With respect, this argument is fundamentally flawed. Why? Because it conceptualises paid parental leave in entirely the wrong way.

Paid parental leave should not be viewed as ‘compensation’ for parenting. The Government doesn’t award the payment as some sort of incentive for parents to stay at home with their babies for longer and avoid re-entering the workforce. In fact, the policy purpose of paid parental leave is quite the opposite.

Paid parental leave is about helping employees and employers and through them fuelling Australia’s economic prosperity. Paid parental leave schemes recognise that when a parent leaves the workforce to have a child – and let’s face it, that parent is usually the mother – that break from work will be financially disruptive to the family and have a negative impact on the national economy.

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The mother loses immediate earnings because she is unable to work for a period of time. She will often struggle to re-enter the workforce after a break because she has lost momentum in her career progression, the industry she worked in has probably advanced around her, she may have missed vital training and will be less experienced than her male counterparts.

This is only compounded by the fact that returning to work part-time or with flexible hours still isn’t possible in many organisations and child care is both difficult to find and expensive. The result? A gap between men and women’s earnings emerges, companies become nervous about hiring women in their child-bearing years and Australia loses the benefits of skilled and highly trained women employees who stay out of the workforce for longer.

Paid parental leave is about making a mother’s transition in and out off work during her child bearing years easier.

Paid parental leave is about making a mother’s transition in and out off work during her child bearing years easier. Why? Because of the economic benefits that has for the country. Paid parental leave is not a welfare payment, it is an investment in getting that woman back to work faster and facilitating her contribution to the economy.

I do not say any of this to denigrate stay at home parents in the slightest. My mother stayed at home to look after my sister and I until I was six or seven-years-old and the benefits of her presence is unquantifiable. But she was able to stay home because our household could afford for her to do so. And had she been unable to afford to do so, the Government would have stepped in with a range of welfare payments like Family Tax Benefit A and B, to support her financially.

There have been payments in many forms in this country and over many years, designed to support Australians with young children. Baby bonuses, school kids bonuses, child care rebates, family tax benefits. These are welfare payments that recognise the role Government has to play in ensuring parents are financially able to care for, look after and educate their children.

But paid parental leave is not a welfare payment; it is an economic play pure and simple.

It’s about keeping women whose education and training our taxes have already paid for, in the workforce and contributing to our country’s continued economic success. It is about minimising the disruption to a woman’s career that child bearing has and supporting working women to be masters of their own financial destinies.

And that’s not unfair. It’s just good economics.

Do you think Paid Parental Leave should be available to stay-at-home mums?

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At Mamamia absolutely everything is up for discussion: from pop culture to politics, body image to motherhood, feminism to fashion. We unashamedly cover what everyone is talking about today: whether that’s stories which will make you laugh out loud, cover your mouth in shock, help you get informed or start you thinking about an issue in a different way and sometimes, we help you to just switch off the brain power from a few sweet minutes and kick back.