Sharing parental responsibility more equally presents considerable personal and emotional advantages for mothers, fathers and children.
We want to encourage an economy and society where both parents have the opportunity to have an ongoing, consistent attachment to the workforce while they have young children.
Lifting economic welfare through increased workforce participation.
Rebalancing the distribution of work and care within families would also lead to a reduction in the gender pay gap, higher GDP through increased female work participation and would ultimately lift economic welfare.
The current federal government system effectively provides for 20 weeks paid at the minimum wage. Eighteen of those weeks are generally paid to the mother and two weeks are generally paid to the father as ‘Dad and Partner Pay’.
Under our proposal this would be renamed Paid Parental Leave, so there was a single scheme. After the birth or adoption there would be an allocation of 20 weeks for two parents. 18 weeks would be the maximum for either parent.
The number of weeks under the scheme would rise to 26 weeks over six years, by two weeks every two years. This mechanism would allow movement towards more equal parental leave without taking away any existing benefit.
Complementing the social change that is already occurring in many families and businesses.
We also propose an equality supplement whereby bonus weeks are provided to the extent that responsibility for care is shared more equally.
These changes would complement the social change that is already occurring in many families and businesses as well as encourage further change – by the government making clear that flexibility and equality are its default settings for paid parental leave.
The biggest impact of this scheme would likely be for workers in small and medium businesses including people who are self-employed – around two-thirds of Australian workers. These smaller businesses are less likely to have the resources to invest in their staff through access to equal (or any) paid parental leave.
It would also complement what is already being done by many large businesses to expand their paid parental leave offerings, particularly to fathers and same-sex partners.
An equal system of government Paid Parental Leave is just one part of the story. Business and societal support for cultural change is key. It is important that men do not feel a stigma for taking leave or that their bosses will feel it is career-limiting. Many business leaders are already showing that this is not the case through words and action affirming that playing a larger caregiving role is a positive for their careers and that of their partner.
In 2018-19, almost 50 percent of women cite caring for children as the main reason they are not working or not working more hours. Caring for children has consistently been the main barrier to work for women over at least the last 10 years for which there is data.
In contrast, only 3 percent of men nominated caring for children was the main barrier to work or working more hours in 2018-19. Over the last 10 years, no more than 6 percent of men have nominated caring for children as the main barrier to work – and it is consistently one of the least cited reasons by men.
Source: ABS, Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, 2018-19.
A positive flow through on the gender pay, income and superannuation gaps.
We envisage an economy and society where the burden and joy of caring for young children is more evenly shared between mothers and fathers, enabling more women to participate consistently in the workforce during their career.
The economy will benefit from increased workforce participation and productivity from less disrupted workforce attachment and skill development. This will have a positive flow through on the gender pay, income and superannuation gaps – benefitting women throughout their lives.
There are considerable advantages for Australia to move to a model of gender equality for child-rearing. A dual career–dual carer or equal parenting model would give rise to a higher standard of living arising from increased productivity and participation, and for mothers a reduction in the gender pay, income and superannuation gaps.
It would also reduce the gap in unpaid domestic work and increase the recognition of equal parental responsibility. Fathers would benefit from greater involvement in their children’s lives with more personal satisfaction and a deeper understanding of the responsibilities associated with caring for young children.
This would lead to better work-life balance for father and mothers, together with a greater sense of fairness in relationships with greater intimacy and stability.
Children would benefit from positive, long-lasting improvements in emotional and physical health and greater diversity of day-to-day role models. Employers would gain from greater understanding by employees of the position of clients and customers, with improved retention and rising morale.
Read more of KPMG Australia's insights and thought leadership on diversity and gender equity.