Million dollar babies: paid parental leave and family policy reform

18 Nov 2008

In February 2008, the federal government asked the Productivity Commission to recommend a national paid maternity, paternity, and parental leave scheme. In September, the commission released its draft report, calling for eighteen weeks of parental leave and two weeks of paternity leave. Mothers who did not qualify for parental leave would be eligible for a maternity allowance equal to the existing Baby Bonus. The commission will make its final recommendation in February 2009.

Paid parental leave has become an important symbolic issue for many women, and support for its introduction has been so vocal that rather than being a means to an end, paid parental leave has become the end itself. The result is that the Productivity Commission has been limited by the inquiry’s narrow terms of reference. Rather than being given a set of objectives and a brief to design policy to meet them, the commission has been asked to design a set of objectives that justify the desired policy.

This paper critiques the Productivity Commission’s draft recommendations and evaluates how well the stated objectives will be met.

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