New research suggests government policy is punishing families with caring responsibilities. Photo: SMH
Working mothers earning as little as $5 an hour after childcare, tax, study shows
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Focus on balanced lives not just balanced budgets.
The federal government should extend paid parental leave to 52 weeks, expand the child care system and re-think aged care provision to ensure the future stability of the workforce and economy, according to a report compiled by 30 experts from around Australia.
The Work + Family Policy Roundtable, comprising academics from 30 universities, has recommended the implementation of a universal care system in its pre-election report released on Monday.
It also proposes the establishment of Federal and State Departments of Work, Life and Community, which would oversee the design and administration of a fair work, care and family policy mix.
Co-convenor of the roundtable, Elizabeth Hill, said the federal government has gone backwards on work and family policy since the last election.
"Australian governments need to focus on balanced lives not just balanced budgets," Dr Hill said.
"An erratic policy environment and lack of a predictable and affordable system of social care is compromising the wellbeing of Australia's households and economy."
Recommendations in the Work, Care and Family Policies Election Benchmarks paper include providing a minimum of two days of care and education for all children regardless of whether or not their parents are working as well as extending the current 18 weeks of paid parental leave to 52 weeks in the long-term.
It also stresses the need for better enforcement of Australian workplace legislation which allows employees to request flexible hours to accommodate caring responsibilities.
The report notes the importance of flexible hours for older workers who care for elderly relatives as well as children or grandchildren.
Dr Hill said there was a strong economic case for enabling people to balance work and family demands.
"It facilitates workforce participation, that builds a healthy economy and a healthy society," she said.
"If you have an adequate social care system you will enable a lot more people to combine paid work with their unpaid care responsibilities and desires. A strong social care infrastructure will help share that caring load."
Recent reforms to the aged care system, designed to offer more choice to the elderly, should be evaluated with the paper highlighting workforce pressures and the quality of care.
The paper also recommends greater focus on the plight of older women, with evidence that many retire with low superannuation balances due to career disruptions.
Co-convenor Barbara Pocock of the University of South Australia, said many women were being financially punished due to taking on unpaid care responsibilities.
"The legacy of a lifetime of care should not be an old age dominated by worries about money and poverty," she said. "A liveable age pension is a must."
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/flawed-policies-punish-modern-families-study-20160526-gp4i45.html#ixzz4A5KDoDH6
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