There are better ways to help children than extending Paid Parental Leave

Bad news first: TOP would abolish Paid Parental Leave. Now the good news: we would give ALL families with children under three $200 per week; no questions asked. Labour is targeting the middle class, telling low-income families to go to hell.

By the time the election rolled around both Labour and National were promising extensions to paid parental leave. So it is no surprise to see Labour extending the policy within their first 100 days. Their intent – to give children the best start in life – is good. However, the way they are doing it – extending Paid Parental Leave – is regressive middle class welfare. 

Under Paid Parental Leave the poor get nothing, while the rich get the most benefit, exacerbating the growing inequality in our society. Is this the kind of society we want? Aren’t all kids worth the same? Don’t we value all parents spending time with their children? So why don’t we reward them accordingly?  

It is yet another reminder that despite their “care for the poor” rhetoric, Labour, like National are really chasing after the middle-class vote. 

The Impact of Paid Parental Leave

Like most benefits, you only get Paid Parental Leave if you meet a bunch of conditions. You have to work at least 10 hours a week, and the higher your income the more you receive in Paid Parental Leave (PPL). Do we really need yet another policy to accentuate the growing gap between the haves and have-nots? As researcher Jess Berentson-Shaw pointed out in the Spinoff:

Paid parental leave goes to relatively better off families. If you have been in precarious work, on a benefit at some point while pregnant, have a partner who is studying, are studying yourself, have been caring for another child or family member, have been ill, you don’t qualify. This maintains a gap between our poorest families and everyone else during a critical phase in a child’s life.

These two graphs below from her book Pennies from Heaven say it all. The one on the left shows that many women of child-bearing age are on low or no incomes. This illustrates the point that women are at the forefront of unpaid work in our society (e.g. caring). Where they are in formal employment, it is often in low paid or part time roles. Compare this with the graph on the right which shows that relatively low numbers of highly paid women receive the bulk of PPL payments.

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By extending PPL, Labour will only increase these inequalities. Is this the kind of society we want, where only the rich can afford to stay home and spend time with their children? Where the poor are forced to choose between spending precious time with their babies and being able to feed them?

TOP’s Solution

Now the good news: we would give ALL families with children under three $200 per week; no questions asked. This is far more generous than extending Paid Parental Leave. But the beauty is that all parents get the same, regardless of what they have been doing before they had a child. And by the way here’s how it’s funded: from the rationalization of NZ Superannuation wherein those who don’t need it only get $200 per week rather than their current payment.

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are the most crucial for their lifetime of development. The Opportunities Party wants to ensure that all parents are supported evenly during this crucial period. After all, every child matters, and every parent is worth the same.

 


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