Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Families Commission backtrack on paid parental leave

The Families Commission having supported increased provision of paid parental leave for some time, it has now been reported that Families Commissioner Carl Davidson has backtracked, and sided with the government in its claim that extending paid parental leave would just be too expensive in these straitened times (of course they wouldn't be so straitened if National hadn't gone ahead with its clearly inappropriate tax cuts, or Treasury had done its job properly and barred South Canterbury Finance from the retail deposit guarantee scheme).
Now public figures are allowed to change their minds, especially if new information comes to hand that materially changes the situation. But we do wonder if some unidentified men in trenchcoats threatened Mr Davidson's pets because the grounds upon which he has changed his mind are - how you say? - odd.
"When you compare them [New Zealand's paid parental leave provisions] to other countries, for instance the United States, actually our state-supplied parental leave system is a very generous one. And I'm not seeing lots of Americans flocking here to take advantage of our paid parental leave."
Actually, the US is the only OECD country with parental leave provisions less generous than New Zealand. And the bit about Americans flocking here is strangely irrelevant.
But having gotten himself into a hole, Mr Davidson then keeps digging: "So it's in the country's interests as well to make sure that women can discharge their parenting responsibilities in that early period ... so they can go back and be economically productive once ... those early weeks of child-raising are done."
So the Families Commissioner doesn't support extending paid parental leave because women should be back out in the workforce as soon as their tired legs can carry them. Nice one, Carl. Were the men in trenchcoats poking the dog with a sharp stick by this time?
There is another possibility. Mr Davidson was appointed by Her Westieness Paula Bennett, a staunch bootstrapper who has introduced legislation requiring sole parents to return to part-tme work when their youngest child turns 5 (or 1, if the child is born while Mum is on a benefit). The press release announcing Mr Davidson's appointment stated "My [Ms Bennett's] clear expectation is that Mr Davidson will provide the leadership necessary to make the Commission an expert centre of quality family research, which can be used to inform Government policy." Or simply agree with it. Here, Mr Davidson's arguments are not very expert but they will almost certainly meet the Minister's expectations.

Mary rues her lack of 
economic productivity