Is cost of children public responsibility?

My mother was a tutor sister.*

She loved her job and was very good at it but when she married she gave it up while my father worked full-time as a carpenter and built their house in his spare time.

Looking back years later, she said it was ridiculous that she didn’t carry on working but that was something very few married women contemplated in the 1950s.

When we married nearly three decades later almost all women continued to work after marriage, though most gave up when they had children, at least until the youngest was at pre-school.

That has gradually changed and now it is not uncommon for women to return to work much sooner after having children.

Some do it by choice, some to keep up professional qualifications, some because they need/want the money.

There are both costs and benefits to taking time off to have children and continuing working.

The benefits of uninterrupted time for bonding and breast-feeding aren’t disputed.

Juggling the care of a baby and the tiredness that goes with it with paid work is demanding.

Women brought up to believe they can do anything can find full-time parenting very challenging.

The loss of a full or part-time income can strain family budgets.

But is it the public’s responsibility to compensate for that?

Proponents of paid parental leave think so and are delighted that Labour’s Members’ Bill to extend PPL to six months has been drawn from the ballot.

There’s been a range of views on whether or not it is affordable given high government debt and the need to return to surplus as soon as possible without threatening essential services.

I’ve yet to read or hear anyone questioning the need for PPL at all and whether the cost of children should be a public responsibility.

PPL is a benefit, paid for from taxes. Like ACC it gives more to those who earn more – at least up to $458.82 per week or the equivalent of $23,858 –   but unlike ACC the beneficiaries have not been levied for it.

Unlike any other non-contributory benefit, except superannuation, it isn’t means tested. A woman, or her partner, earning thousands of dollars a week has the same entitlement to PPL as someone on the minimum wage.

Is that right or fair?

I’m not convinced it is on principle and absolutely sure it isn’t in the current economic environment.

I might accept a case if it was means tested. But paying the equivalent of pocket money to high earners when the country is seriously indebted and the only increased spending in this year’s Budget will be for health and education – paid for by savings elsewhere – is a luxury not a necessity.

Lindsay Mitchell argues the economic case against the extension here.

Cactus Kate writes on parental pay madness.

Lucia Maria thinks PPL just grows the state.

* Tutor sister doesn’t exist anymore – that was a senior nurse who taught the junior ones in training hospitals.

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