Everyone can benefit from Paid Parental Leave changes

The opposition to the Paid Parental Leave scheme has been unhelpfully vitriolic at times but the Government’s decision to redirect funds from Paid Parental Leave (PPL) into early childhood education and care is the right one.

As an advocate for children, I support full wage replacement Paid Parental Leave –it would make it much easier for new parents to spend time with their infants, establishing that bond between parent and child that lasts a life time.

The Government’s proposed full wage replacement scheme would give families genuine opportunities that the current minimum wage model simply doesn’t afford.

But if we are going to raise money to invest substantially in new support to families I am not convinced that full age replacement Paid Parental Leave is the top priority.

In an era of fiscal restraint, where the Government has to make difficult choices, the priority should be on affordable, high-quality early childhood education and care, rather than a more generous Paid Parental Leave scheme.

Early Childhood Australia commissioned a Galaxy Poll of voter in August last year. At the time support for affordable early education over PPL was 70 per cent. After a one year in Government the Galaxy Poll reported yesterday shows that support for child care is relatively unchanged at 64 per cent.

The reality is that when parental leave is over, parents need access to affordable, quality early childhood education and care for many years after the PPL runs out.

The question is how will the funding be invested in early childhood education and care?

The Prime Minister is right to say that investment in early childhood education and care is an ‘economic issue’.

The economic modelling on the former Government’s Productivity Agenda shows that the existing paid parental leave scheme was much less effective in the long term than measures aimed at improving access to early childhood education.

KPMG Econtech forecast that the existing paid parental leave scheme would contribute 0.7% to labour productivity growth compared with 2.9% for access to quality early childhood education.

Both of these early childhood measures were aimed at quality early learning experiences for children, not workforce participation.

That is not to say there aren’t benefits from increasing parents’ workforce participation.

Price Waterhouse Coopers modelling shows that that the benefit to GDP of increased female workforce participation is $6 billion to 2050.

However, the Benefits to GDP for children receiving a quality education and care program is 10.3 billion to 2050. The benefits to GDP of increased participation of vulnerable children in early learning is $13.3 billion to 2050.

These numbers cogently demonstrate that Australia needs to invest in children’s development for our future – but the focus must be on early learning, not just parents’ workforce participation.

High-quality early education and care programs amplify children’s development at a time of rapid brain development.

That means looking a streamlined subsidy system which improves access to early learning for vulnerable children, not just subisdies for nannies.

If the Government gets the policy settings right, the investment will benefit children, families and the economy.

Sam Page

Samantha Page is the CEO of Early Childhood Australia (ECA), the national peak advocacy organisation for children under eight, their families and professionals in the field of early childhood development and education. ECA was established in 1938 and works with Government, early childhood professionals, parents, other carers of young children, and various lobby groups to advocate to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight years. ECA is a not-for-profit membership based organisation. It also has a successful retail and publishing arm, producing a number of very well regarded subscription based publications including the Australian Journal of Early Childhood. Samantha holds a Master’s Degree in (Community) Management from the University of Technology, Sydney and she is a Graduate of the Company Directors course offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Her passion is for social equality and she has worked in the non-government sector for 20 years across roles encompassing service delivery, executive management, consulting, social policy analysis and advocacy. She has extensive experience in the development and implementation of social policy and sector development projects.

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    […] post was first published on Early Childhood Australia’s blog The Spoke and is republished with the permission of the […]

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