GOAL: INCREASE WOMEN'S WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION
SOLUTION: QUALITY EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE
Without quality, affordable and accessible early childhood education and care, Prime Minister Tony Abbott's proposed paid parental leave scheme cannot succeed in enticing mothers back to work after their six months parental leave ends.
The evidence shows that parents' confidence in the quality of childcare their children will receive is critical to their decisions about returning to work.
United Voice, the early childhood union, providers and early childhood experts agree that access to high quality and affordable early education and care is the key to increasing women's workforce participation.
As does Wendy McCarthy, board member of Goodstart, Australia's largest early childhood provider.
Wendy McCarthy told Emma Alberici on Wednesday on ABC TV's Lateline:
Mothers will not go back to work unless they feel secure that their child is safe, well cared for and getting the kind of stimulus and care, early learning that is a birth right.
Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) says "The Prime Minister and Federal Treasurer have made it clear that this will be a tight budget. As such, is the Paid Parental Leave scheme the best spend when evidence suggests that investing in high quality early childhood education and care has long-term, significant benefits for children? - Gwynn Bridge, Pres, ACA, 30/4/14.
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) says "Our concern is that while the majority of families will be secure for the first six months, finding affordable services for their children over the next four and half years will be difficult. It will still leave families struggling to provide their children with quality early development and contribute to the workforce." - Sam Page, CEO of ECA, 30/4/14.
A paid parental leave scheme is important to families but it falls far short of meeting families' and - critically - children's needs. ECA and ACA say a better solution is to redirect the funds and increase Government investment in early childhood education and care.
Goodstart's Wendy McCarthy told Lateline:
WENDY McCARTHY: "...that paid parental leave money will be much better put into investing in the first two years. Then women will go back to work. It's like maternity leave. The number of women who don't take up maternity leave because they can't get care....
everyone on the birth of a first baby has an aspiration to hope that that child's life is better than theirs, no matter how good theirs is.
You want the best for your child. And we want them to think that their children are going to be more than safe and happy, that they're going to have access to good, early learning and great care and that goes for the families too because we engage the family."
EMMA ALBERICI: But what's the Government's role in achieving that?
WENDY MCCARTHY: The Government's role is to fund it.