Parental and not maternity leave – the last great piece of social change – did we blow it?

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Introduction

Before the last Federal election Australia was debating Paternity Leave options. I wrote the following Opinion Piece as part of the debate. This covers similar themes to my recent genderism v feminism blog.

Parental leave or Maternity leave, which is it really?

Andrew MacLeod argues that we are so close to achieving the last great piece of social change and the conclusion of the fight of our mothers… and who is dumping the chance? The Minister for the Status of Women.

Born in 1966 I am one of the first so-called Generation X. I am part of the first generation of men who accept that women should an equal part of the work force. For men like me it is not debatable, equality just is.

Our mother’s fought as feminists for the right to liberate women from the home and to give women the right to participate equally in the workforce. However one critical point was missed: True equality also requires the liberation of men from the workforce. 

True equality requires equal opportunity for both genders to become the care-givers at home. True equality is for the liberation of men from the workforce as well as women from the home.

Therefore, somewhat ironically, the last great piece of social change from the feminist era is to liberate men. And in the last 48 hours we just blew it and women will bear the brunt.

There are three great hurdles as I see it to men becoming the primary care giver, one is financial, one biological and one cultural.

The biological issue is around breast feeding, an issue that I will not engage in here.
Financially in most relationships men, be it through gender or age (or a combination of the two) tend to earn more than women. Hence, a parental leave policy based on the minimum wage, such as that proposed by the government, will favour women being the primary care giver. A ‘parental leave’ policy based on minimum wage is merely a ‘maternity’ leave program with a nice name, not a genuine parental (ie maternity and paternity) leave program.

Such a program cements the role of females as care-givers, cements females in the role of having to take career breaks, and cements the women into a lower paid career path. After all, according to The Economist, it is not gender that creates the wage level gap in modern economies, it is parenthood.

According to The Economist, non parent women get paid the same as non parent men, but parent women get paid less than parent men. Parenthood and care-giving is the critical differentiation, not gender. Wage equality therefore depends in part on equality of care-giving as well as equality in the workforce.

On the other hand a parental leave program based on current wage levels earned, such as that proposed by the coalition, removes the financial disincentive for the male to be the primary care giver. Such a policy may encourage more men to be the care-givers and move towards an even more equal economy.

Surely equality is something that the left wing would agree with.

But now we get really bizarre.

The Coalition argues for a 26 week leave to be paid by the top end of town.
Excuse me? Top end of town? The Liberal Party?

Surely when the Liberal Party proposes a 26 week parental leave that further liberates women from the home and paid for by the top end of town, the left-wing-Emily’s-List-females of the Labor Party would agree like Cheshire Cats with cream?

Surely the Labor Party, in pursuing the last great piece of social change, rather than reflexively opposing the opposition, would adapt the program and implement it with bi-partisan support?
“Yes Mr Abbot, good idea, let’s work out the details and implement it this Parliament”. Couldn’t K Rudd and co. say that?

But no.

We now find ourselves in a strange situation. The government Minister for the Status of Women is arguing against a 26 week parental leave program that removes the financial disincentive for men to be care-givers, in favour of a program of 18 weeks that cements the women in the role of care givers.

You have the Labor Party arguing against a 26 week parental leave policy that many in the feminist movement have been calling for since I was a kid.

You have the Labor Party arguing against the top end of town paying for it.

I just don’t get it. We are within distance of finishing the work of our mothers. We are within reach of genuinely looking at men and women being equal in the workforce and as care-givers.

We are so close to achieving the last great piece of social change… and who is dumping the chance? The Minister for the Status of Women.

Bizarre.

More discussion like this is in: : 

  
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