The money might be hard to give away - give me a break.
Today's Editorial from the NZ Herald begins;
Few taxpayers will disagree with the proposal from the Families Commission that paid parental leave should be extended from the present 14 weeks to one year. If couples cannot afford for one of them to give up paid employment to care for a baby through its first year, the grant would seem one of the better uses of the social welfare budget.
How do they know that? Do you support it?
The commission estimates the extension of the benefit would increase its cost from the current $95 million a year to $450 million, a significant new financial commitment by any measure. To soften the fiscal shock the commission suggests the extension be phased in over eight years, first to six months, then nine, reaching the full year in 2015.
But these cautions will be based on an assumption the benefit will be fully subscribed. In all likelihood, the money might be hard to give away. Even with the offer of paid parental leave career-minded young mothers may be as anxious as fathers to return before their baby is a year old.
Hard to give away?? Let's test that. In 2002 Treasury predicted PPL would cost;
2002/03 $41 million
2003/04 $44 million
2005/06 $45 million
Here are the actual spending figures;
2003 $56 million
2004 $63 million
2005 $76 million
2006 $96 million
2006 spending more than doubled predictions. That blows that theory out of the water.
The full benefit would probably be taken up mainly by women in low-paid, non-career employment who would need it most. In this respect the scheme has a natural efficiency that enables it to be supported by taxpayers who might be concerned at the present Government's tendency to waste precious public funds on welfare for all.
Offer a universal benefit and towards universal uptake is what you will get. But worse. Many people who have no intention of returning to work will also take the year's payment so the potential for ripping the system off is also boosted.
Paid parental leave, though, carries a social signal more important than its financial terms. A decision to extend it to a year would tell young parents that society thinks it a good idea for one of them to care for their baby at home for that time. The present provision of just 14 weeks paid leave arguably gives quite the opposite message, though the right to unpaid leave with a preserved job already applies for a year.
Ah. That all-important 'sending a message'. For pity's sake. The DPB is permanent Paid Parental Leave and look at the message that sends. The taxpayer will keep you indefinitely as long as you can keep churning out babies. Whether or not you care for them properly is neither here nor there.
This country's 14 weeks payment is less than any other Western country except the United States and Australia, which do not provide parental leave. If we are going to provide it we ought to do it properly. Both main parties seem to agree with the Families Commission. Even if the cost is too much to extend the scheme more quickly, a decision to do so could be made soon. The decision would be a statement of value, affirming that nurturing for at least the first year should be a full-time job.
So rather than seriously considering what our two largest trading partners, both much stronger economies than NZ, do, the Herald wants to rush headlong in the opposite direction. This is a fine example of ill-thought-out advocacy. Unfortunately, they are not on their own.
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