Maternity Payments for working mums
At the moment there is an interesting debate on Maternity Payments for working mums – payments for mums when they take time off to have their baby. Currently only 2 countries who do not have this scheme – USA and Australia.
- In Sweden, for example, a mum receives 80% of their income for 390 days, plus an additional 90 days at a capped flat-rate (this is the most generous scheme),
- In Britain mums get 90% of their income for 6 weeks plus an additional 33 weeks at a lower rate
- the Netherlands gives their mums 100% of their income for 16 weeks
- In Canada mums get 55% of their salary for 15 weeks.
Our current (Rudd) government has a scheme (which is about to commence), paying eligible recipients the adult federal minimum wage ($543.78) for 18 weeks no matter what they had been earning in their current job and after this point they must support themselves eg through other benefits, leave entitlements etc... or return to work. The plan from the opposition (Abbott) government would receive 100% of their income for 6 months (for all mums who earn up to $150 000 per year).
The government scheme will be funded through taxes whilst the opposition scheme is funded by big business - who aren't thrilled with the idea at all (a large company like Rio Tinto would pay $1.5 million per year - that is big dollars for any company). Both schemes do not take into account the income of the spouse.
On top of the maternity payment scheme, mums also get $5,185 per eligible child in 13 fortnightly installments (this is capped and called the Baby Bonus). The baby bonus is given to working and non-working mums. For those non-Australians wondering what the purpose of the Baby Bonus is – it was to encourage women to have children as our birth rate was declining!! Our birth rate is now on the rise – whether that was due to the Bonus, I am not sure. The Baby Bonus used to be given as a lump sum, but it was found that families used it for non "baby" expenditure eg to by a Plasma TV!! :(
The question we were discussing at work was:
- should high income mums get the maternity payment (middle class welfare)
- should the spouses’ income be taken into account
- should it focus more on lower income mums
- are we creating a welfare state where people expect money from the government for a whole range of things
Interestingly in the newspapers there have been a number of would-be mums who have said they couldn’t afford to have children unless there was a maternity payment. This raises an interesting question about the way people spend money and make life choices eg some couples decide to buy an expensive house which needs two incomes to pay off the debt but when it comes to having children they can’t afford it because their mortgage is too big. People seem to have their priorities all mixed up.
Feminists would argue that these payments were vital to keep women in the workforce (as they have the right to be there) and the government is responsible for making sure this happens.