How major parties stack up on work, care and family policies

The Work and Family Policy Roundtable has delivered a pre-election score card that rates how Labor and Liberal policies stack up against the research evidence on what a strong work, care and family policy platform should look like.

Stock image of mother on couch reading off an iPad to a toddler and baby. Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash.

Photo: Alexander Dummer/Unsplash.

The Work and Family Policy Roundtable – a network of 32 experts from 17 universities – released their score card just days before the nation heads to the polls. It highlights that Labor’s policies are more developed than the Coalition’s and better reflect the research evidence on effective work and care supports.

“Labor’s policies on early childhood education and care, paid parental leave, wages, gender pay equality and tax reform reflect the research evidence on policies that support work and care for all, but especially women,” said Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill from the University of Sydney, and the roundtable’s co-convener.

“The changes to parent subsidies for early childhood education and care and the extension of the national preschool and kindy program to all 3- and 4-year olds are particularly significant for women and will have a positive impact on their capacity to work and care. But more needs to be done.

“By comparison, the Coalition has very little on offer at this election.”

However, the Roundtable’s score card also shows that both major parties share an “ad hoc approach” to the provision of adequate care infrastructure and have omitted policies that are necessary to provide adequate support for families to work and care in ways that suit their circumstances.

This includes longer paid parental leave; paid leave for those providing end-of-life care to a family member; casual employees’ access to paid personal and carers leave; or access to respite care for carers.

Co-convener Professor Sara Charlesworth of RMIT University said: “Neither party has taken a comprehensive approach to investment in care infrastructure to this election.

“Australia would be in a much better position to deliver a sustainable and high-quality care system if public investment in care infrastructure was increased by an additional two percent of GDP expenditure.

“There are important areas neither party has addressed – including introducing paid end-of-life leave for carers, and strategies to address the persistent problems of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the workplace.”

The score card examines eight priority policy areas: investment in care infrastructure; paid leave to care; decent working time and job security; sustainable high-quality care services; good quality jobs for the care workforce; gender pay equality; safe workplaces; and institutional support for work and care.

The score card follows the release of the roundtable’s Election Benchmarks 2019 report last month.

That report called for urgent reform of the national policy settings of work, care and family policies and detailed research-informed policy recommendations including 12 weeks of paid end-of-life leave for carers and including superannuation in paid parental leave.

“Successive Australian governments have pursued gender equality focused on increasing women’s participation in paid work. Gender equality in the paid workforce cannot be achieved unless new and equitable ways of organising care are found,” Associate Professor Hill said.

“Policy settings for a prosperous, healthy and equal Australia must provide households with time to work and time to care for family and community in a way that suits their circumstances.”

/University Release. View in full here.