It’s been a certain kind of year, and that’s putting it mildly.
The Australian government has not made it easy for working mothers, as it has led us carelessly into a pink recession.
Mr Treasurer, you have called for population growth, and for more women to start having babies to help build the economy.
Well, I have come to the party. The COVID-double. New puppy and baby, due 2021.
But there are things that are working against me here.
Firstly, I’m in my mid-30s with two children already in school and this defines me as a ‘geriatric’ mother.
If that is not discouraging enough, on telling people my ‘happy news’, I have left friends and colleagues shocked, speechless and even in fits of laughter.
I have had to tell them it wasn’t a joke, and yes, it was planned!
So why the shock?
It may come as a surprise to you Mr Treasurer, but being a working mum is extremely challenging. Try juggling finances, a career, family, school and sporting commitments, and then top this off with pregnancy.
It’s a constant drain on time and finances. Life is far from balanced.
In return for resetting the clock on the parenting juggle, I have a simple request: please don’t disappoint us with a bloke-covery 2020 budget.
Here are a few ideas that might help not only your wish for population growth but your dream for economic recovery.
1. Universal early education
Early childhood education is critical education. It’s not childminding, and the benefits to both children and the economy have been proven.
Moreover, I enjoy work and I want to go back.
Please don’t make me pull out the Excel spreadsheet and family budget again to work out if I can afford it.
My choice of when to go back to work shouldn’t be impacted by inaccessible and unaffordable childcare.
I promise, you will more than break even.
2. Paid parental leave scheme
Equality starts in the home.
It should be the norm for both parents to spend time raising their children and sharing the workload in a parent equality model.
Iceland’s policy encourages parents to take four months each, with an additional two months that either parent can use.
Germany too has a generous scheme, and offers a bonus two months when both parents use at least two months each.
On the flip side, Australia’s two-week ‘dad and partners pay’ only serves to reinforce archaic gender roles with one primary income earner and one primary carer.
It is time to come out of the dark ages.
Superannuation to be paid on the government’s paid parental leave scheme.
This is approximately $1,300 extra per participant, which works out to be less than one fortnight of the original JobKeeper payment.
This could be worth an extra $9,000 to parents’ super in 30 years and will help combat the significant gap in men and women’s superannuation savings.
The COVID-19 early release scheme has seen $33 billion of payments come out of the super system.
Women have withdrawn less than men, but due to a significant retirements savings gender gap, they have taken a higher portion of their balance.
It’s a long game, but a worthy one.
4. Parent care bonus
The introduction of a small bonus to help parents of newborns. Parents need the ability to hire help in the first 12 weeks after having a baby.
Meanwhile, small businesses are struggling against the backdrop of the pandemic.
A cash bonus of, say, $750, could be used to generate income for what are overwhelmingly small businesses: 30 hours of cleaning, 30 hours of babysitting, 10 takeaway or home-delivered meals.
This would be a great way to help stimulate small businesses while offering a huge benefit to new parents.
5. Social housing
Women aged 55 and older are the fastest-growing group experiencing homelessness in Australia. This is partly due to greatly reduced superannuation savings and their ability to continue to participate in the workforce (see above wish list requests, Mr Treasurer).
Investment in affordable and safe public housing benefits older women while unlocking barriers for younger women and children to leave unhealthy relationships.
An adequate standard of living, including safe and secure housing, is a fundamental human right.
I understand your government has budgeted $680 million for the home builders scheme, but how about a social housing scheme to support those in crucial need?
Of course, we all know (including you), that measures to increase female participation in the workplace, improve gender equality and boost women’s superannuation savings don’t belong on a wish list. They are social and economic imperatives.
Without them Mr Treasurer, you may need to start making your own wish list, which I’d be happy to start for you.
1. Boost population growth without women
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.