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.”

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