Experts urge reform of work, care and family policies

30 May 2016

Our researchers contribute to calls for urgent policy change to reflect demographic and workplace shifts and represent growing numbers of workers who have care responsibilities.

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Two days a week of subsidised childcare for all children and an extension of parental leave schemes are among a series of recommendations made in a new report released today, which features detailed contributions from policy experts at the University's Women and Work Research Group.

The report by the Work and Family Policy Roundtable — a multi-disciplinary network comprised of more than 30 experts from 16 Australian universities — sets out a series of pre-election benchmarks and calls for the maintenance of a 'liveable aged pension' as a cornerstone of Australia's retirement system. 

"Australian governments need to focus on balanced lives not just balanced budgets," said the roundtable's co-convener Dr Elizabeth Hill, of the University of Sydney. 

"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. Our research shows that we need to do much better if we are to ensure a society where work and care can be combined with positive benefits for all," she said.

Co-convener Emeritus Professor Barbara Pocock of the University of South Australia said more attention must be paid to the wellbeing of older women. "The legacy of a lifetime of care should not be an old age dominated by worries about money and poverty. A liveable age pension is a must."

Policy recommendations made in the report include:

  • A minimum of two days a week of subsidised early childhood education and care for all children, regardless of their parents' workforce participation
  • Extending the Parental Leave Pay (PLP) and Dad and Partner Pay (DaPP) schemes to 26 weeks in the near term, and eventually 52 weeks, and raising the payment level from the minimum wage to include superannuation
  • Paid annual leave and carers' and personal leave for casual employees on a pro-rata basis
  • Establishing equal pay as an objective of the Fair Work Act
  • Slashing the tax benefits of superannuation that favour higher income earners.

Co-convener Professor Sara Charlesworth of RMIT University said: "The election campaign has to date been preoccupied with tax and superannuation reform for high-income earners, yet work, care and family policies remain a priority for all Australians."

The report also calls for the establishment of Federal and State Departments of Work, Life and Community, which would be responsible for the overarching design and implementation of a fair Australian work, care and family policy mix. The authors note Australia's workforce is increasingly feminised and ageing, with the formal retirement age set to increase to 70 by 2035. 

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)
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