Paid maternity leave

As we launch our campaign calling for mandatory paid maternity leave, Lucie Morris and Anna Saunders report from the parental front line. Makayla McIntosh's face turns noticeably pale as she recalls the day she reluctantly returned to work, just 12 weeks after having her first child. However, Makayla, 29, didn't have any choice but to leave her son in the care of her mother. Without paid maternity leave, she simply had to return to work to meet her mortgage repayments.

Like two-thirds of all Australian women, Makayla's experience of first-time mother-hood was affected by the fact her employer offered no paid maternity leave. Yet if Makayla and her partner Jason, 33, a distri-bution manager, were living in virtually any other nation in the developed world, their story would be very different.

In Canada, she would receive an incredible 50 weeks paid leave - of which 35 could be taken by either herself or her partner. In Italy, she'd receive 47 weeks, in the UK, 39 weeks, while in Germany and Japan, she would be entitled to 14 weeks of fully paid maternity leave. "I can't even imagine what that must be like," remarks Makayla. "I had no idea other countries are so generous. Even having just six weeks paid leave would have helped enormously with our finances and given me more time at home.''

In fact, Australia and the US are the only countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-ordination and Development (OECD) that do not have universal paid maternity schemes - and this is despite the Australian government encouraging us to have more children.

So what is being called for? The issue of paid maternity leave is a battle that has been fought for many years, and by two women in particular. In May 2002, Natasha Stott Despoja, Democrats senator for South Australia, introduced a private member's bill to bring in a national scheme of 14 weeks government-funded maternity leave. Although the bill failed to be voted on, its sentiments were echoed the same year in a report by now NSW Liberal MP Pru Goward in her former role as federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner. She called for 14 weeks pay, up to the minimum wage, and calculated that the net cost to the taxpayer would be around $213 million a year - a drop in the ocean considering the recent federal budget reported a surplus of nearly $11 billion. Broken down, this would roughly translate to a maximum payment of around $7500, compared to the current baby bonus of $4133.

Although the baby bonus scheme, which was introduced in July 2004 and is due to rise to $5000 in 2008, currently offsets some of the costs for new mums, it doesn't solve the issue of paid maternity leave. "It was a start but it wasn't enough to compensate women having to leave their jobs to have a baby, and did not take into account women's differing incomes," says Senator Stott Despoja. "The government has ducked the maternity pay issue for too long now and I'm furious that we still lag behind the rest of the world." Source.

MK – So we are lagging behind ey, well from my observations western society is also lagging behind in actual birth rates. The more I think about this, the more I have to conclude that the easier it is for us to have children, the fewer we have. Here in western society, having a child is like launching a rocket into outer space, the amount of checks and what not that are done to ensure your baby is born healthy and lives is unheard of in third-world countries. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but in western societies you cannot get the birth rates to match that of third-world countries for love or money.

In the above article she talks about maternity leave in Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and Italy. Have a look at the birth rates (births per 1000 persons, per year) for these countries and compare them to America and Australia, I found this link on Wikipedia, US is 14.14, Australia is 12.14. All the countries listed in the article have a birth rate lower than America and Australia, Canada is 10.78, Italy is 8.72, Japan is 9.37, Germany is 8.25, UK is 10.78, you know where they have a very high birth rate, the Gaza Strip at 39.45 and the West Bank at 31.67, some of these folks raise their children to become martyrs. Do you get it, some of them are looking forward to death, we in the west love life, but we cannot hold a candle to their birth rates. Take it from me, Hamas and Fatah are not shooting each other to pieces right now over the amount of baby-bonus they want to pay the mothers of the Shaheeds.

I’m sure everyone is happy to put their hand out for some free money, but remember it’s not John Howard writing personal cheques, it’s coming from other citizens who are working. I’m starting to think we should take away the baby bonus, tax breaks and all that, maybe then we’ll get the birth rate up. What say you?

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