Australian Economy

Major parties need to work harder to support women and families: Scorecard

The scorecard evaluates Labor and Coalition policies against research-informed recommendations developed and released by the Work and Family Policy Roundtable earlier this year. Many of the recommendations have not been met by either party.

The scorecard shows that while neither party’s policies fully address the critical issues affecting Australian families caused by the severe disruptions to work and care during the pandemic, Labor policy commitments go further.

Co-convenor of the Roundtable, Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill from The University of Sydney said that the pandemic had exposed the limits of existing work and care policies, such as unaffordable childcare and an inadequate national paid parental leave scheme.

“Successive federal governments have taken an ad hoc approach to work and care policy over the past 20 years. We need improved policies, informed by research, that support workers to better combine work and care. These will deliver substantial social and economic benefits,” Associate Professor Hill said.

“If we can get the policy architecture right, everyone wins – those we care for, workers, the care workforce, employers, the economy and society. Robust policies for work and care support community wellbeing and boost economic productivity.

“While we welcome the focus on some of Australia’s work and care challenges during this election campaign, the policy proposals still do not adequately reflect the realities of women’s labour force participation, now at historic highs, or young worker’s desire for more equal sharing of family care and paid work.”

Professor Sara Charlesworth, co-convenor of the Roundtable from RMIT University said plans to strengthen gender pay equity in the Fair Work Act and bring in specialist expertise on pay equity and the care sectors was significant.

“These measures reflect the research evidence on the importance of industrial relations policies in closing the gender pay gap and addressing poor wages and conditions in paid care work,” Professor Charlesworth said.

“Decent work that pays a living wage, supports secure and predictable work hours, and provides for paid leave to care for family and community are critical – not only to the delivery of high-quality care services but also to women’s economic security more generally.

“And while the widespread support for higher wages for aged care workers is encouraging, we need more focus on addressing the low rate of Job Seeker. Such income support is vital to many worker-carers who may spend time out of the paid workforce.”

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