Government Undervaluing Mothers on Paid Parental Leave

Media Release 11 April 2012
Family First NZ is slamming the government as being scared of robust debate on an important family issue, inconsistent on spending priorities, and accusing it of undervaluing mothers after its decision to veto the paid parental leave bill due for debate in Parliament.

“This family-friendly bill should at least be given the respect of debate. Families are being penalised for having children,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Successive governments have undervalued mothers – and it continues with this decision.”

“The political and policy focus has been on the needs of the economy, rather than on the welfare of children and the vital role of parents. In reality, this policy would represent about 0.2% of the total government spending, yet research shows that the role of mothers and the early bonding between mums and babies is vital for healthy child development.”

“Ironically, the spending on early childhood education has almost tripled in the past ten years – yet there was no suggestion of a veto by the government then.”

A 2008 report by UNICEF rated New Zealand 23rd out of 25 countries for effective paid parental leave. Kiwi parents get 14 weeks paid parental leave while the average in the rest of the developed world is approaching one year. In 2009, the Families Commission called for an extension of paid parental leave to at least 12 months.

“A recent Department of Labour evaluation of paid parent leave showed that only ¼ of mothers thought the paid parental leave was long enough, and up to 75% said ideally they would take a year off. Yet the average time at which mothers return to work is when their baby is six months old. Only 14 weeks of that is paid. ‘Financial pressure’ was cited as a key reason for returning to work earlier than desired.”

“It is ironic that the Ministry of Health recommends at least six months exclusive breastfeeding. It is also ironic that a key objective of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 is improved health outcomes for both mother and child with a mother being able to recover from childbirth, bond with a new baby, and return to work without negative consequences to her health and that of her child.” 

“Research by the Ministry of Social Development last year found that 1/3’rd of all working couples were unhappy they both have to work. And only 43% of kiwi mums with children under 3 are in some form of paid work.” 

“The role of parents during the crucial early years of a child should be acknowledged. Families should not be pressured to return to work simply because of financial concerns, and the Parental Leave scheme and other family tax breaks should support and strengthen families with young children.”


2 comments for “Government Undervaluing Mothers on Paid Parental Leave

  1. Glenn Gilbert
    23 April 2012 at 3:34 pm

    A “Nice-to-Have”, but who is going to pay for it? Employers are already hard-pressed; governments have no money of their own, other than what they take off us in the form of taxes. There is a lot to be said for: “if you can’t afford them, don’t breed them”. That may sound harsh, but there should be an element of responsibility in bringing children into the world and the CONSEQUENCES. My wife and I both worked hard to educate our 2 children to the best of our abilities. After 6 months off work, our children both went to a “day mother” a Christian lady who took care of them in her home. At theage of 3.5 yrs, they went to “playschools” and then on to kindys. As much as we would have like to, we could not afford for my wife to stay at home after 9 months and 6 months for our 2 children, respectively. We funded her staying at home out of our savings and mortgage and nobody paid for any of this. Both of them have grown up into fine Christian citizens with university degrees. We never received any funding from the taxpayer or elsewhere in all that time. I must say, we were fortunate in that my wife has school holidays off and my profession allows me to work around this in that I was able to attend school meetings and fetch and carry them from school as well as be involved in their sporting and other extra-mural activities. Also fortunate that we did not have any health issues. In my opinion, to have a large family, if you cannot give them proper attention and education is irresponsible, if you expect others to fund it. New Zealand is not a wealthy country. It has a small tax-paying base and very few natural resources that regulation and the Greens allow us to utilise. We cannot afford generous paid parental leave of 12 months, even though it is a desirable benefit.

  2. Barbara
    23 April 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Paid parental leave is a lovely notion but
    shouldn’t we be helping ourselves instead of expecting a hand out.
    I am concerned that the more we rely on the Government the more we seem to loose our independence and instead become dependant on others.
    If we are not doing things for ourselves we seem to loose the ability & skills to help ourselves, plus can the country really afford it?
    Look at Greece and I hear Spain is struggling as well.
    In the past other family members assisted where able, or mum stayed home. This meant limited budgets but families did without the luxury items. As a child we never went to cafe’s but did all the free stuff & had picnics, plus clothes were handed down or second hand I still do this today.

    I am all for assisting people but shouldn’t we be doing this by showing others how they can help themselves. This will not only allow them to earn their own income but give them self respect, grow their confidence and show them they can do it.

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