Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's Laughable . . .

There's an election campaign brewing. Our PM Kev 0 Sev (voted into power in 2007) is apologising left right and centre for not having achieved many of his election promises and for being 'whacked' on not achieving his goals. Carbon trading - FAIL - Health Care - FAIL even his rock star Environmental Minister has been demoted because he backed free home insulation and failed to ensure the installers were 'qualified' resulting in 4 deaths and a barrage of shoddy workmanship - idiot installers nailing foil insulation into electrical wires . . .so now it begins . . what 'whacky' scheme will capture the imagination of voters?

The latest is Maternity Leave.


Now I took advantage of Maternity Leave twice. I was entitled to 12 months off work, no pay, but my position or one of equivalent salary would be preserved for my return. Easy! Then came Paternity Leave which allows your partner and you to share care of your infant and take six months each, again, no pay but a nice way to share the load. Both of these schemes are funded wholly by the employer.

Now, with an election hovering towards the end of the year, the debate is heating up.

Our Government has announced that around 150,000 new mums and dads will be eligible for taxpayer funded paid maternity leave each year when the scheme kicks in in 2011. Parents will receive 18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage of $544 a week. To qualify, parents who take the leave will have to have an income of less than $150,000 and have worked at least one day a week in the 10 months leading up to their child's birth.

Parents who receive the paid leave will not be eligible for the $5000 baby bonus or family tax payments (monthly payments to help support raising children for lower income families). Yep, here in paradise, it pays to procreate.

To counter, the Opposition are offering six months' parental leave at their normal pay level, capped at an annual pay rate of $150,000 a year. Taxpayers and employers would foot the potential 2.7 billion dollar tax bill.

In government in 2002, Mr Abbott decreed that compulsory paid maternity leave would be introduced "over this government's dead body". But it seems that the Holy roller, father of an illegitimate child and the man who only last month declared that women should hang on to their virginity until marriage because it is a precious gift . . (no such advice for men) seems to have changed his tune. Apparently he has become more attuned to the needs of women. Ahhh . . . bless!

This won't be a huge election issue. Why should maternity/paternity leave be paid and why funded by business and the tax payer? If you choose to have a child, you should be financially secure enough to take the requisite time off work. You should be able to afford child care or have someone available to look after your children while you work.

Look at it this way. If you're a smoker, you're entitled to regular breaks during the day to indulge your addiction, while the rest of us (no I don't take smoke breaks at work) plot on shuffling the paper trail for what amounts to as much as an extra hour a day while our colleagues puff and chat at the bottom of the fire stairs.

Where does this policy offer any compensation or equity to those of us too old to have children, too young to have children or choose not to, or just can't, have children?

The other side of the coin is that if the employer bears the brunt of the payment and has to hire someone for the 12 month absence as well as paying the person on Maternity leave, do you think they're going to look positively on women in the 19-30 age group? Or even men in that category? Knowing that the possibility of them having children could cost an arm and a leg?

Because only women can breed, (and believe me I'm waiting for the day a man can actually deal with 9 months of pregnancy and shitting a watermelon at the end of it! come to think of it, I'd like every man under 50 to put up with the crimson wave on a monthly basis and function normally) I'm all for holding a position open, guaranteeing work upon return, subsidised, cheaper child care so that working mums can go back to work and still make a living . . . but paid maternity or paternity leave? I don't think so. We don't need more breeders, we need better leaders.

I'd rather free education, free dental, free university or my many year's of income tax to fund my retirement . .

It's laughable:


28 comments:

nick said...

Being childless, I very much share your sentiments. If people want kids, as you say they should be well-off enough to take parental leave without everyone else paying for it. Public services for the whole population, like free health care and dental care, should be a higher priority. And how many kids do we need anyway? The global population is soaring along with consumption levels and carbon emissions.

Tom said...

I can see a reason for offering incentives, but Does Australia have a problem with low population? Probably not, so the reason isn't there. People who don't have children have long complained about paying for the educational system, but where would we be without it?
We never got a dime from the government or jobs for having kids, but if you're unemployed and poor you can have a trillion kids and Uncle Sam will fund the little ankle biters (mom cashes the checks). Now that's a great system!

Sarah Lulu said...

I don't mind subsiding Mum's staying home ... I'm happier if everyone gets a year off ...somehow ...to bond with their babies ...or most.

Ok I'm a kid's counsellor ...a foster care case manager ...I'm pretty opinionated hahaha...

AND I'd like something to help me retire ...next week would be good!

And free dental ...yes OH YES.

xx

Rowe said...

I think there'd be a lot of our great grandmothers turning in their graves right now. How about downsizing if you must, or not overcommitting oneself financially if planning to have children. Not sure if paid maternity leave is a good idea. Probably because I did not get it and survived. The crimson wave, haha, never heard that one before.

Wally The Walrus said...

Hard one this.

Can't be a hypocrite. When Mrs Wilma the Walrus produced the 2 little walrii, she had paid maternity leave thanks to a generous employer. The scheme was something like 6 weeks of pay at full time, and then 12 months off at no pay, with a position of equal pay, responsibility, etc on return.

And the few quid that this paid was very happily received, what with loss of income from a full time position and the expense of a new sprog, we was going backward at a great rate. (Mind you the current baby bonus is a pretty fair compensation which would have been a suitable trade off, had it been available.)

So - schemes that are around are good and well received. Your point about who pays, and the attractiveness of employing women is a fair one. However, one that no employer will ever put in writing (as a reason for not employing a woman, all other things being equal) because that would be discrimination and land one in court quick-smart.

Other countries do have taxpayer funded maternity (and paternity) leave schemes - the Nordic countries especially spring to mind. However, they also have much higher taxes and a much greater sense of social responsibility. By that I mean the state is responsible for ALL education expenses (no HECS, no out of pocket ANYTHING), all health insurance, and should you lose your job the state also pays the same wage you previously received for a period of up to 2 years. The quid pro quo here is that most wage and salary earners pay around 60% of their salary as income tax.

So - it can be done, it is done, there are other circumstances that surround all this though.

For Australia - if 'tis to be done, should be done well. By which I mean one system only, nationwide. The various state government and employer schemes should bite the dust. I'm not entirely convinced of the equity argument ("I have no chillens so why should I subsidise you..." blah blah blah). After all, to use your own argument, I'm not an age pensioner so why should I subsidise them by paying their pension. If they are not able to support themselves that's their problem. Sounds a bit harsh? Or how about why should I subsidise people over 60 with concessionary tax rates, or special super rules? Or why should I subsidise people with the low income earners tax rebate? If they don't earn very much then they should earn more. Sound harsh? I could go on - there are many, many examples of social engineer by dishing out money. Payments for producing da liddle sprogs is an easy emotive thing to get into but is but one symptom of a widespread system of incentives, payments, rebates, support, you name it. Generally this is done for some kind of social good and distinguishes us from the savages.

So partly agree. Partly disagree. Its complex and rushing to a single conclusion based on a single set of facts or opinions (be that you or any of the pollies) leads to poor or perverse outcomes.

(Oh, and Abbott's "illegitimate" child turned out not to be his - so he's not actually the father of the illegitimate child after all. Speaks volumes about both him and the woman involved, but thats another thing for another time.)

Mim said...

I think that here in the US you get about 3 weeks off to have your baby - which seems SO crazy to me. Some companies allow more, some less. But, being a person with no children - I've not been away from work for 3 weeks in over 20 years. Not that I think taking care of a baby is easy work - au contraire - but there is such a different attitude towards woman taking time off work because of child care needs vs. someone like me taking time off work for myself. I don't agree with paid time off - that is an awful burden for a company. Believe me, I've hired plenty of woman and it's very tough to cover for them while they are on maternity leave - but I'm able to manage it because it's usually only 3 months ( I usually work for companies that have the more liberal policy - 2 months off "officially" and then another month for vacation and sick leave).

It's a conundrum. If men had babies...but then again, would they be the power mongers that they are now? or more like women? or would we both be able to procreate in that instance, and then both sexes would be on an even keel?

Bimbimbie said...

Me thinks big business would love a workforce of child and geriatric labour all male of course, think of the money they'd save*!*

Grannymar said...

Baino, you hit a nerve with me on this one. A child is not a toy but a life changing responsibility. You know dam well if you put your hand too close to a saw you end up with no hand. If you have sex then there is a chance you will end up with a baby. If you cannot stick the heat than get out of the kitchen.

I made the choice baby or work. I stayed home and put my all into bringing up Elly. Ok, so we didn't have every latest gadget as it rolled off the presses, and I lost out when I returned to the workplace - I was treated like a second class citizen. I don't care I would never regret those years spent with Elly.

The other part of all this is that those part-time mother/workers expect those without children to take over at the drop of a hat when junior has the sniffles and they are always the first to bag the holiday leave list. Never once giving a chance to those without home responsibilities the offer of first choice. Grrrr!

Now I need to go cool down.

i beati said...

Politicians and owners so far from reality . Wait until the next election in the US??We have the worst group in office. I bet they vote from every state to get rid of them,, at least those on O"s side- the worst ever in this country

Brian Miller said...

if you are concerned about breeding i think you could put a limit on the number of times it can be taken. i think it is a nice perk, and would hate for breeding to be limited to the snobby rich, you know...

Liza said...

I don't have kids myself, but I know that child-care is ALWAYS a hot-button issue come election time in Canada (gotta keep that tax base working!).
"We don't need more breeders, we need better leaders."
I wanted to add to that
that better breeders create better leaders, but it is going to take one hell of a lot more than paid mat leave to make that happen.
This is a real thinker Baino.
Thanks for sharing.

Jen Chandler said...

Oooh, this is a thinker. Nice one and thanks.

Jen

Ronda Laveen said...

Oh, I agree. I don't think it should be a mandatory paid leave. If some companies want to offer it to keep or attain good workers, go for it.

California Girl said...

I'm in agreement with you. When I had my now 22 & 23 year old sons, my company's policy was up to 13 wks leave, unpaid, and your job guaranteed open when you returned. I was thrilled to keep my position, my accounts and my income. While I was out (I've always been in broadcast ad sales) other people called on my accts & rec'd the commissions. But, when I returned, all my accts were returned to me.

If people are going to be paid for maternity leave, it begs the question of how many will have kids to get that leave? Specious? Probably. But I don't think we should offer accross the board incentives to HAVE CHILDREN in a world already overpopulated.

How did the woman in this video have 4 kids anyway? Fertility drugs? They are cute and their laughter is infectious but 4 at once? And crazy lady Octomom says she'd like to have another. Oi vey! Spare me.

River said...

Paid maternity leave seems like a good idea on paper, and those who want it won't look too deeply into what it really means and will vote for whoever is suggesting it as part of their election campaign. But, like you said, it means employers having to fund the leave payments AND the wages of the person covering the leave, so they're definitely going to think twice about someone who is possibly only going to work for a year or so just to qualify for the leave.
I agree that the money would be much better spent on free dental, health and education, especially at higher levels of schooling, since that is where most lower income families lose out, when they can barely afford to keep a child of working age in high school, let alone think about university.
I wonder if any polliticians or their party members ever read these blogs and find out just what it is that the people really want from our taxes. We'll know if one or the other party suddenly starts touting free dental etc.

Megan said...

Whew. Gotta think a bit about this one.

ian said...

Baino,

These provisions have been in place in Europe for years! In the UK even Mrs Thatcher's government recognized their importance

From a utilitarian, capitalist perspective, children are a means of sustaining Oz PLC. Without the children, the population becomes top-heavy, pension funds are under pressure and a shrinking tax base has to maintain an ageing population.

The provisions have not led to an increase in numbers of children, the countries most generous in their allowances have the smallest families.

Eternally Distracted said...

Much food for thought... In the meantime the laughing babies are enough to distract me from anything sensible!! So funny :0)

The Jelly Monster said...

Those babies are kinda freaky I like the evil look baby

Jill said...

Oh, I think people are dumb enough to have kiddos JUST to get paid leave! GAH!

LOVE the baby vid...hilarious!

Kath Lockett said...

This is such a tough issue.

I had three months' maternity leave back in 1999 and non-paid for another six months before returning to work. Whilst yes, having a baby was my choice, paying a mortgage on half our usual salary for that time was extraordinarily tough, even though we were not big spenders or hadn't thought things through.

I'll never forget looking down at my worn out old sneakers and realising that a new pair was not an automatic option.

I honestly don't know what the answer is but your estimate of 19-30 should really be 19-42 these days as more couples delay having children due to the utterly frightening size of their mortgages.

otin said...

Hey, did anyone else notice that you were man bashing!!! LOL Just kidding. I have had some bowel movements that probably have weighed in at 7 or 8 lbs! lmao!!

Babysis said...

I didnt have maternity leave. I made the decision (which was not a tough one) to stay home and raise my children until they were old enough for me to start part time work. I strongly believe if you make the choice to have children - you do it at your own cost. We had tough financial times and still do! But I dont regret a thing - and I certainly dont expect anyone else to subsidise my time off work - its just unreasonable.

What I am concerned about is that people will work for a small period of time and then pop off to start a family claiming maternity leave. I would most certainly NOT vote for K-Rudd purely based on this stupidity.

He seems to have forgotten the state of our hospitals, public schools (High Schools in particular), dental and the rest - good god where do I start (And I voted the fool in!)

I agree with Grannymar - oh except for the part time workers comment - I work part time and rarely take a day off or have holidays - because I dont get paid if I dont work!

I've got a headache!

laughingwolf said...

no employer should subsidize breeding and/or babysitting just cuz some twit can't budget for it!

one little acorn said...

Thank you thank you thank you!

Seriously, at last someone (who actually has children) who can see both sides. I am child free and working and non smoking and paying my taxes and I am so so SO sick of the perks the govt are handing out to families and new home buyers and other people who can't seem to manage their own lives!

Why don't they invest (truly invest) in health or education or SOMETHING that benefits for everyone. Allow people who don't add any burden to the system a chance to get some perks as well and advance a little. People who want children already have financial support from the govt and now they are getting more! AND (I expect) the employer will have the burden of the extra costs. At least, (I guess) as a 40+ worker, I might get to jump the queue ahead of my younger child bearing peers. What employer would want to employ women who may well have a baby... or 2... or 3!

As for smokers... give all the non-smokers an extra day off every 2 weeks to make up for the time that smokers take during the day to puff away at the company's expense. (And add workload to all the other team members). Now, I'd be happy with that as a new policy.

And has no-one even complained about the raising of the retirement age? What's going on there?

Ahhh... as you can see, you have hit a nerve with me too. And I have been intending to post about this for ages.

jeannette stgermain said...

My daughter not only had paid leave (in California), but even a raise as an incentive for her to come back. I think it depends how valuable the person is as an employee of the company.
I do agree that free education would be a better choice instead of paid leave.
Your comparison why not to have paid leave with smokers doesn't follow logic -smoking is a habit that leads to death and is harmful for everyone around them!
And your sentence "we don't need breeders but leaders" is a very crude way to say...what? If you want to be crude, make at least sense if you want to win people who think for themselves over to your viewpoint.

Baino said...

Good grief Jeanette. When did logic have anything to do with this blog? Welcome over anyway.

Your daughter must be considered a valuable employee indeed and if employers want to offer those sorts of incentives, that's entirely their decision. She's very fortunate.

I just don't believe that paid leave should be mandated by Government. We have better things upon which to spend our tax dollar. Since the introduction of the baby bonus, people are having kids left right and centre, whether they can afford their ongoing care or not.And yes breeders vs leaders is indeed crude. That's how I roll but by leaders I'm insinuating that our pollies don't think through these things before proposing them . . we're in an election year and it won't be the first silly, poorly thought out promise we'll see before the next Federal election. Thank you for a dissenting view. All adds to healthy debate! My sister has a good point, people going for short term jobs just to qualify for paid maternity leave . . trust me, it will happen.

lettuce said...

hmmm oh what an interesting discussion.

I agree about the need for people to take responsibility for their breeding.... and over-breeding...

but also, our national economy and future (any national economy and future....) is dependent on the children of that nation, so the nation benefits, including those who don't have children themselves - so, maybe it does make some sense for the nation to contribute to their well-being?

also i think some of these issues might be a little easier to solve if our culture wasn't so locked into inflexible patterns of working - that, combined with nuclear not extended families, makes it all so much more difficult to resolve


gosh that was too much thinking for a sunday morning, i'm off to make more tea.