Paid maternity leave

By Legal Eagle

I was doing my morning browse of the various papers when I came across this provocative statement by Susie O’Brien in the Herald Sun:

Sorry, stay-at-home mums, but you don’t deserve paid parental leave.

There’s one simple reason. You are not in the paid workforce.

Her reasoning is that paid maternity leave is not to help parents, but to encourage female workers to stay in the workforce after they have a baby. At the moment, low-income women either go straight back to work or just give up work altogether because it’s just not worth it.

That got me thinking. From my point of view, what we really want to do is offer women (and men) a choice. We don’t want to channel them into the workforce if they don’t want to be there. But we do want to give them the option.

My point of view on this issue has changed radically since I had children, and has also changed as (a) I had my second child and (b) as my children have grown up.

Government paid maternity leave is a difficult one. I used to feel strongly that I was entitled to it, and that it was beneficial for society in general. But some of my childless friends have privately voiced concerns as to why they have to pay for other people to have children.

As I said on this thread here, I’m quite keen on the idea that people with kids should be able to opt to split their income for tax purposes, and that the tax free threshold should be higher. That way, if one person is earning $10,000 per annum and the other is earning $70,000 (net family income: $80,000), they could both be taxed as if they were earning $40,000. It’s what partnerships do. However, Labor Outsider had the following criticism of the idea:

The big problem with tax splitting is that it can reduce incentives for second earners to work, or increase their hours because the second earner is being taxed at a higher marginal rate under income splitting than individual taxation. Effectively, the marginal tax rate of the primary earner falls (usually the male) and the marginal tax rate of the second earner increases. This doesn’t matter too much if the second earner has no wish to remain inside the workforce, but matters considerably if they are considering moving into employment or increasing hours as the routines of children change.

So, while it is true that the current tax system “favours” double earning families over one earner families, the shift to an alternative would likely have non-trivial effects on female labour supply.

When kids are small, the carer-parent usually doesn’t want to work so long, but once the kids start going to school, the carer-parent may want the opportunity to increase his or her hours. So then I was wondering if we could offer a smörgåsbord of choices, so that carer-parents (usually women, but not always) were able to go back to work if they wanted to do so. Perhaps some kind of childcare rebate (although I’m still doubtful about rebates…)

The other thing that worries me about the tax-splitting thing is that it might disadvantage single parents. The system would have to be very carefully designed to ensure that single parents were not disadvantaged and were treated equally to double-income families. You don’t want to put incentives in place that mean, for example, that women have to stay in violent relationships because they’ll be financially beggared if they leave. But, by the same token, you don’t want to put in place incentives that make it cheaper to be single than to be in a couple, such that couples pretend to be separated for tax purposes because it’s disadvantageous to be in a relationship. (You think I’m joking? I once knew a couple who tried this!) You want the system to try to treat people equally, which is a bit like trying to juggle 50 stacked teacups on a moving train at times.

I suppose my main concern is with choice. I don’t particularly care if women leave the workforce and never come back as long as that’s what they want. By the same token, as long as women want to work full time, I’m also more than happy for them to do that.

However, I think that for most women, the optimal position is somewhere in between these two extremes. One of the best articles I’ve read about this was by Jessica Brown in the Brisbane Times the other day (hat-tip Quicksilver):

If you picked up a newspaper last week, you might have noticed the news of a new outbreak of fighting in a very old war. No, it’s not Afghanistan. It’s not even the new outbreak of violence in the on-again, off-again trouble spot of Bangkok.

It’s the war between stay-at-home mums and working mums. The Senate is holding a last-ditch inquiry into the (already over-inquired into) paid parental leave scheme, which the government hopes will be in place by next year. And, predictably, the squabbling between different groups of women over who will get the largest chunk of taxpayers’ cash has re-emerged.

In the blue corner, we have the good-for-nothing, lazy, stay-at-home mums. They get to sit around on the couch all day in their trackies, eating chocolate biscuits and watching Oprah, all because they can’t be bothered to get a job.

What’s worse, they’re probably university educated. By withholding their labour from the market, they are actively contributing to the skills shortage and will probably cause the next recession.

In the red corner are the working mums, and boy are they a nasty bunch. Never deigning to change a nappy or wipe a snotty nose, their kids can best be described as a fashion accessory to be pushed around each weekend in an enormous designer pram.

When they’re not in the boardroom, they’re having lattes with their other working-mum friends, giving nary a thought to their toddlers caged for hours on end in grim, Benthamite child-care factories.

From all the rhetoric we hear, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these egregious characters are everywhere. But do you actually know anyone like this?

Nope, me neither. All the mums I know love their kids to death, but also get some satisfaction from putting down the crayons and doing ”adult” things – like going to work. They all want more time with their children, but know that mortgages, piano lessons and even (cue horror at profligate and selfish spending!) family holidays, cost money.

Brown concludes:

Perhaps it’s time all the participants in the debate took a deep breath, dropped the politics, and acknowledged parents for what they really are: individuals who all have different preferences and circumstances, and who all just want to get by. Policy – and politics – should treat them that way.

Hear, hear. I think we need to find a middle ground which recognises that different people make different choices, and that’s fine. We shouldn’t either be trying to herd women into the workplace or herd them back to the kitchen mit kinder und kuchen. We should be offering carer-parents a range of options which reflect the varied choices out there.


  1. Peter Patton
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink


    There is just so, so, soooo much in all this, I’ll just comment on one of issues you raised:

    1. On the ‘concern’ of those current adults who do not have children. My answer is that there are only two things every single human being alive today shares with each other, and also shares with every single human being who has ever lived, and who will live in the future: a) we were all kids; b )we all die.

    Therefore, these ‘concerned’ adults were once in the same boat, as your eaglets today; and their parents were once in the same boat as you.

    Now, while these ‘concerned’ adults might argue that their parents were not subsidized, the fact is if we introduced some form of universal parental payment, every single child born after that – and their parent/s- will benefit. Thus, once those kids grow up, even if they do not have children themselves, the duty will fall on them to help subsidize the next generation who benefit from universal parental payment.

    The ‘concerned’ adults who do not have children, will be the only generation of adults who might need feel this social umbilical chord of financial tit-for-tit to the next generation. I think we can wear this small number of people’s grumbles; especially as we know – as do they – they are more than adequately compensated in so many other areas. Also, given they are such a small % of adults overall, their ‘detriment’ will be tiny, given the total costs will be spread among all adults.

    Now, this response in no way addresses the subtlety required in designing a scheme, but it does remove one of the cobwebs.

  2. Posted June 1, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    There is no such thing as a perfect system. Statistics and public policy based on statistics is derived from averages. You cannot govern for every possible permutation; at some point some people have to pay. One of the problems with our current system is its failure to produce clean, clear, predictable rules. This is in large part borne of a desire to draft laws and come up with policies that cover every possible choice permutation.

    It isn’t possible.

    A few things to bear in mind:

    1. Wage labour is very fulfilling for middle-class women, but often not for working-class women, many of whom prefer to be full-time parents.

    2. Many of the women pulling policy levers on this issue are professional and middle-class, and see the world only through their own eyes.

    3. If lots of poor women drop out of the workforce thanks to income splitting and tax-breaks that favour people with kids, unskilled wages will go up. This will stop people bitching about immigration.

    4. There is strong evidence that children in poor families benefit from a full-time parent in the home. The division of labour exists for a reason. It’s efficient.

    5. Single people who never have kids (of which I am one) can cry me a river. Life is made immensely easier for a woman if she opts not to have kids: no gender pay gap, an uninterrupted income stream for pension purposes, steady (male equivalent) career advances. I’m happy to slew the tax system in favour of stable families for people who are less inclined to like the office as much as I do.

    6. The French offer both cheap childcare and income splitting. This has the effect of ensuring that very few children are in childcare when they are small, but allows women to re-enter the workforce easily later on. France’s birthrate is very high for a developed country, guaranteeing that there will be plenty of taxpayers in the future to pay the bills (particularly health care bills). Their system is, however, hideously expensive and productive of many and various social problems (difficulty in entering the labour market is a biggie, which contributes greatly to the rioting in Muslim areas).

    7. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

  3. Miss Candy
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Skeptic Lawyer, point 5 – thank you for your insight. I’m sorely sick of women who don’t get this. My career has been made immensely harder, my pockets are empty and I have no time for myself – for a bath, for reading a book, for watching Lateline. ..

    On the plus side, I don’t drink all my money any more and I have better judgement.

    LE – some would say that if you’re prepared to do the work to raise the next generation of workers, taxpayers, innovators, scientists, etc, you should probably be paid for it. I know it’s not that easy, but it’s not a bad starting point.

  4. Patrick
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    SL, point 6, second sentence, are you sure that the effect isn’t the exact opposite? What do you mean by small, <3 mths?

  5. davidp
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    The Australian Family Tax Benefit amounts to a significant income splitting system – it’s based on family income and gives substantial rebates, but it only applies when there are dependent children. Targeting income splitting at families with kids makes sense to me – a stay at home spouse is a luxury (for both people) without kids, but works hard when there are kids.

  6. Posted June 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    SL: On the high French birthrate, it is not entirely clear which “French” are having those children. If it is simply a very high Muslim birthrate, then the non-Muslim French birthrate may well be unremarkable.

    On single women who complain about paying for other women to have children: I wonder somewhat if that is not in part displaced angst about childlessness. I am not a parent and are not likely to ever be one, but it has never pushed my buttons.

    Otherwise, agree entirely.

  7. Posted June 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Many of the women pulling policy levers on this issue are professional and middle-class, and see the world only through their own eyes.
    Perhaps the #1 issue that confronts Femocrats or would if they allowed themselves to be confronted.

  8. Posted June 1, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I think single people who complain about subsidizing others’ kids should be mindful that whether or not they’re parents personally is immaterial if one considers that further generations are necessary if one doesn’t want the country falling apart. Societies in which the elderly outnumber the youthful will soon be a common feature of the modern world. And we will see all sorts of problems.
    The one I really don’t want to think about is China where the cumulative effects of Mao’s breed a billion programme and Deng’s one-child corrective will soon come to a head.

  9. Anthony
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I like Suzie O’Brien’s point: women who haven’t been in the workforce prior to childbirth shouldn’t get paid parental leave because they’re not on “leave” from anything. For the same reason, no one’s saying they should get annual leave or sick leave or long service leave. It’s semantically illogical that they be paid “leave”.

    Having said that, I think employers should be paying their workers parental leave in the same way as they pay annual leave, sick leave, long service leave and so on – as many already do. If there’s a problem that bosses won’t employ women of childbearing age given this potential liability, then pool the cost of the leave scheme, as per workers comp.

    If government monies are going to be used to fund this scheme, I do object that working mothers who leave the workforce to care for young babies are to be paid a social security payment that in generosity far exceeds any other payment the government provides. Why should a working mother who retreats from the workforce get paid the minimum wage from consolidated revenue whilst a single parent or someone looking after a disabled kid or even someone unemployed and looking for a job gets paid a far lower and less generous income?

  10. Posted June 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Despite the demographic catastrophizing one sees on this issue (for all of Europe, not just France, and for which I am tempted to institute a special ‘YouFailStatisticsForever’ prize), the Muslim component of the French population isn’t significant enough to slew the data in the way you suggest.

    Immigrant groups (on migration to a developed country) always experience a major drop in fertility rates due to changes in the status of women. In France the drop isn’t as far, but still falls within the average children per woman that holds across the country. The Muslim issue that confronts France (badly) is the difficulty involved in entering the labour market, which contributes in a very large way to the rioting one regularly sees there: young Muslim men (plus other poor non-Muslims) struggle to get work, France is a welfare state, and the combination of money and enforced idleness is particularly toxic.

    Anthony: the logic behind income splitting is that it produces incentives for a particular lifestyle, an example of ‘liberal perfectionism’, that is, using the state to achieve social outcomes, but not using the state’s more coercive powers. It’s now very well documented that when welfare benefits, for example, are reduced if a couple want to move in together, a perverse incentive is created whereby people either lie about their relationship status or continue to live (and often raise children) apart. This in turn means micro-management of welfare recipients’ lives (so more bureaucrats) and places pressure on housing availability (both public and private) as the number of single-person households shoots up.

    The virtue of coming up with an incentive-based system is that it rewards a particular behaviour-set that is known to produce positive social outcomes. The downside — as I mentioned earlier — is that the whole raison d’etre is the system’s simplicity and refusal to come up with laws that cater to every possible choice permutation.

    For more detail, see Patricia Morgan, ‘The War Between the State and the Family’, IEA, 2007.

  11. Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    LE: Thanks for the big tick.

    SL: The demographics of France turn out to be fascinating. France is having quite the prolonged population boom, after a long period of very low comparative fertility rates.

    The Muslim numbers do not seem large enough without very high fertility rates indeed, though the French state’s coyness about such matters does leave a large hole for scaremongering. And it does have a major problem in the banlieus. Caused in part by disastrous labour market regulation. But it is traditional in France to treat the underclass like crap.

    One of the great unknown demographic facts: which country has had the fastest fertility collapse recorded? Iran. But why would an Iranian woman–with access to contraception–bring either a daughter to be oppressed, or a son to be an oppressor, into the world of the mullahs?

  12. conrad
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    you keep on talking about the French policies for their labour market and their childcare state as if they are one and the same thing — they arn’t. You could have one without out the other if you wanted (e.g., their childcare but not their labour market), as is done in some of the Scandinavian countries.
    Another thing I think people should think about is the argument about government subsidies of family services and the effect it has on birth rates. If the biggest effect it is having is .1-.2 kids per female, then it isn’t a very big effect. There are probably more important factors than the type of subsidies people are thinking about, and these include typical gender divisions (what is the male’s expectations of child raising? not surprisingly, birth rates are low when the males feel they should do nothing) and housing (again, everywhere rich with crappy housing has low birth rates). France is very un-sexist (nowhere I’ve been is better), and, apart from some places in Paris, has reasonable housing. Even if they didn’t have all the family subsidies they do, I bet their birth rate would still be higher than other places in Europe (NZ is similar, for example, and they don’t have all the subsidizes, but they do have good housing and males that participate in family duties).

  13. conrad
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    “I needed names for hypothetical people”

    I hope I’m not the bad guy :). That can be for Boris. How about: “Boris and Conrad were arguing about paid childcare in strong East European accents yet again. Since Conrad doesn’t usually have that accent (and Boris speaks in the language of woof, which very people understand), Boris thought he was mocking him. This enraged Boris, who salivated even more than usual and he tried to bite Conrad, who swore at him back, but this time in English (the words of which will remain a secret). Amongst this commotion, Alice, whom Boris had once tried to bite before for no particular reason, peered through a hole in the fence, and became scared of the poor behavior Boris and Conrad were displaying yet again. Alice’s mother wondered what rights she had to try and stop the constant disputes between her neighbors from scaring Alice, and became deeply involved in setting up tort law #1633, a law which details the legality of the incidental effects of un-neighbourly behavior.

  14. Posted June 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Going forward, more leverage on firms to provide part time or flexible opportunities might be more useful that paying whopping amounts for a short stint. And the thing with part time is that at least they are paying for what they get- the main obstacle to part time work is inflexibility, but it is not a handout- firms get what they pay for (on most accounts, plus an extra day’s worth of taking phone calls at home etc.).

  15. Posted June 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    ” so I have Alice (the name of my doll when I was little), Boris (the name of my best friend’s dog) and Conrad.”

    Sorry mate, she clearly wanted the Good the Bad and the Ugly.

    But that does make you the most interesting character :p

  16. TerjeP (say Taya)
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I have three young kids but government funded or mandated paid maternity leave just makes me cranky. If you want kids then save your pennies, find a supportive partner and have kids. Otherwise don’t. I can rationalise handouts for poor people with kids on charitable grounds but a government funded paid maternity leave is disfunctional. Why should taxpayers fund high flyers a high flyers salary just because they had a kid. It is the worst form of middle class welfare. A toxic policy in my book.

  17. Posted June 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Whatever the French are doing now, it’s working in a way that whatever policies they had in the past did not: as the article on their demography Lorenzo linked to indicates, they underwent a long period of demographic decline, which has now been reversed. If that isn’t in response to well designed incentives, then I’ll eat my akubra. In terms of demographics, the Scandinavian policies aren’t working in the way the French ones are.

    A nasty thought: what if demographic and female employment success is dependent on having an underclass? I’ve long suspected that important feminist demands are antithetical to analogous demands for poor males. Not for nothing is it mainly men who look back on the period of mass unionisation in the workforce as a golden age, while for women the policies instituted by the likes of Thatcher were enormously beneficial in terms of labour market participation and advancement.

  18. Patrick
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    The issue with France as an example is that all this matters to what kind of a society you want. In France most mothers can’t afford to stay home so they are back at work after three months. Some employers like banks offer more time. Almost always there is a strong expectation that you return to work at the end of the paid period.

    I accept Terje’s points but I always call myself a libertarian-minded conservative. I would rather a society where there is an at-home primary caregiver for at least the first few years of each child’s life. Obviously argument from anecdote is hardly convincing but my anecdote is that this is fairly rare in France, more so than here.

    I can also counter-anecdote Conrad’s sexism point – in this case, until the cows come home. I would take a whole lot of convincing that France was less sexist than Australia.

  19. conrad
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    “In terms of demographics, the Scandinavian policies aren’t working in the way the French ones are.”

    Why assume that it is major policies that are making the difference? Even things like tiny awareness campaigns are important, which is why the Aus government did all that dont-wait-until-40 advertising, and presto, we get a possibly unrelated baby boom of women in their thirties (alternatively, perhaps it was a change in what women expected — i.e., career first, children later). Similarly, cultural attitudes are probably exceptionally important also. In places like the US, which has less family friendly government rules than most places, you have typically had higher birth rates than France. Why? Religion? Housing? Positive attitudes to the future? General expectations of having children? Social institutes themselves designed for children? etc. ?

    “what if demographic and female employment success is dependent on having an underclass?”

    In some places in Asia (and to some extent, with it’s illegal workers, France), this is basically solved by having cheap 3rd world employees in your country, but there’s no way Australians would accept that sort of thing. Even getting a few fruit pickers is almost impossible.

  20. Caroline
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Australian government schemes on this front seem to be for the sole purpose of encouraging people to have more babies. Little thought seems to be given to who is having the babies or the circumstances into which the babies are born. The baby bonus is not remotely an inducement to most people to have children, because it does very little to cover the real cost of a child. The only people I can see who would actually think the baby bonus justifies popping out a child would be from very low socioeconomic and socially dysfunctional backgrounds or teenagers, particularly if they are not very financially literate. Most women with any common sense appreciate the assistance the baby bonus and/or tax measures give, particularly if they are from a low socioeconomic background, but do not make a decision whether to have a child on that basis.

    This makes me think that if these measures are incentive schemes for population growth, they make the unusual decision to try and boost baby numbers for the same kind of women that are most likely to have their children being removed by the state for neglect. Is this a good incentive scheme?

    A paid maternity scheme is at least a bit better targeted. Most women who can hold down a job are at least fairly functional. Unfortunately, paid maternity schemes do not provide assistance to many deserving and excellent stay at home mums.

    For me personally, all the schemes are kind of irrelevant. I am a professional woman on a good salary and means testing rules me out of pretty much any of the schemes. What is frustrating for most professional women is that we’ve worked really hard to have a career that allows us to be independent, and to be on an equal footing with men, particularly our partners. For me personally, having a baby (I am due in about a month) will mean a huge personal sacrifice – of income, status, independence, lifestyle etc. A minimum wage means tested paid maternity scheme does not address the disincentives for professional women to have children, or the gender gap this creates. I was raised to believe that ‘a man is not a financial plan’, but the way parental work is valued in Australia, I am forced to rely on my husband’s income.

    It is interesting that the paid maternity scheme is often seen as a ‘feminist’ or ‘middle class’ scheme, where in fact I can’t see that it achieves feminist or middle class objectives particularly well. To the person who suggested it subsidised ‘high flyers’, it certainly does not.

    And while it’s a nice argument that it’s paying for the next generation of doctors, teachers, scientists etc. – actually, most professional children come from professional families, and the scheme does not provide incentives for these families.

    One impact of the paid maternity leave scheme that is rarely discussed is the positive impact it has on small business. My husband runs a small business and one of his difficulties, particularly when hiring young women, is that he cannot afford to offer them employment conditions comparable to government conditions, which include signficant paid maternity leave entitlements. A paid maternity leave scheme actually helps to compete with government or large employers so that he has access to a better range of employees.

    So, on balance, while it is frustrating that a paid maternity leave scheme does not help me, I’d much rather pay it than a baby bonus scheme. I think it targets resources better and helps level the playing field for small businesses.

  21. conrad
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    “The only people I can see who would actually think the baby bonus justifies popping out a child would be from very low socioeconomic and socially dysfunctional backgrounds or teenagers, particularly if they are not very financially literate.”

    I don’t think those groups are going to have kids for the money either — there’s almost no teenage births in Australia anymore (16 per 1000), excluding the indigenous population, and I would suspect that those that are having kids at that age are not the type that really think about it before doing it. So, apart from the occasional Today-tonight scare story, there’s no evidence they are (indeed, the rate of teenage births in Australia has been dropping for decades, and the introduction of the baby-bonus didn’t change that, so there is evidence in this domain).

    “A paid maternity scheme is at least a bit better targeted”

    Actually, I think it’s worse targeted, and your situation highlights why. It’s regressive compared to a baby-bonus because it’s giving money to people who already have money or at least could have thought about saving some before having kids (i.e., working professional couples), whereas the baby bonus goes to everyone, including poor people who might really need it.

  22. Chris
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    LE – There is also the aim to allow mothers to be able to afford to stay at home with their new baby for a reasonable time – eg establish breast feeding, bonding, etc.

    Though I have difficulty understanding how the paid part of paid maternity leave helps mothers stay connected to the workforce. In our case because my wife had pretty good paid maternity leave we could afford for her to stay on leave for longer.

    I think flexible working conditions are much more important than paid leave (rather than just a right to unpaid leave) when it comes to encouraging mothers to keep working.

  23. Miss Candy
    Posted June 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Caroline, I don’t even know where to start with your post, which is well written, so you are obviously smart. Perhaps you’re a bit unenlightened.

    1 – yes you may have to take a professional hit (we all do) in order to have children. It’s a shock when it happens to someone who is so entitled in life (I was), so it’s a good idea to get used to the idea right now. All this does is bring you down from your professional and well educated perch to the level that most people live their entire lives at – from which they experience a bigger hit when they have children. The good news for those like us is that we get to bounce back up at the end of it because we’ve got uni degrees and don’t have to slog away, while parenting, at certificates and qualifications to try and get up a rung or two. Hooray for middle class parents and their educated professional kids!

    2 – Yes, you may be “forced” to live on your husband’s salary. That’s great, because you have a husband with a salary. Many do not.

    3 – You implied that women who enjoy the baby bonus are those who are likely to have their children removed for neglect. Indeed, all poor families are likely to neglect their children. Let’s report them now. Hell, let’s sterilise them now. At the very least, consign them and their worthless children to a life of poverty.

    4 – The implication that professionals “naturally” beget professionals is patently offensive to every struggling family out there. Did you stop to think about WHY or did you assume that middle class people are simply better parents? Could it be something to do with our welfare and education systems? Why does this justify further boosting the economic and social status of wealthy parents?

    Wake up love. You are extremely privileged. Others need help. My grandparents were poor and had five kids. Two of those got to post-secondary education with government help. One is my mother. I’m now a perfectly nice middle-class lawyer. Or maybe we should just let poor families sit and suffer.

    I’m off for a cup of tea to settle my stomach.

  24. TerjeP (say Taya)
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    When my wife and I married I had a nice nest egg of savings and she had an even nicer one. She generally earnt more than me. Even though we share our money post marriage I never resented her greater financial contribution. After we had kids my income became somewhat more primary and at times the only income. My pride in being a provider has at times been severely dented by her resentment of perceived dependence. The feminist revolution has in some ways got us to a point where nobody is quite happy. This doesn’t mean we need to go backwards but somehow we need to raise our sons and daughters in such a way that they can go forward with less angst. However I see this as being a cultural amendment not legislative one. Even though the state has handed us small parcels of money on occasion I’d like to take out an AVO against the state and keep it well away from my family.

  25. Patrick
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, I am 29 with three kids and I admit, government support while I finished uni was handy, and indeed government support for the first few years of working was handy – in effect, it offset my taxes! Now, I no longer get any, and I will very soon have repaid every cent with interest.

    But I do appreciate, and value, that I was able to have a few kids, early, and start my career reasonably early (only three years late – I took three years off uni to work and earn some ‘real money’), and that it played a part in allowing my wife to stay home – only our first child needed to do more than one or two days a week (he had four, but again, only once he was 18 months old).

    This isn’t having your cake with icing on top and eating it as well, it is a magic pudding.

    I think that in many ways ‘the system’ worked in our case. OTOH, of what relevance is my example? I am an extreme minority for policy-making purposes and one of the privileged few who were probably going to ‘make it’, more or less, under any system. I could have relied on familial support if it was really necessary, I could have supported my family differently and earnt more money more quickly, my wife could have worked, we might have delayed two and three (one was a surprise, so no delays there!).

    So maybe if I was the post-writing type I would write a post called ‘how I learned to be conservative and semi-like the State’ in relation to family support.

    Possibly, LE and I have ended up at positions closer together than those from which we started at 🙂

  26. conrad
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    “Well, I am 29 with three kids”

    The pope would be proud of you Patrick!

  27. Patrick
    Posted June 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink


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