Across the ditch our Australian friends are not so always lucky, doing without any form of paid parental leave whatsoever. With a change in Government it was hoped this would improve. And it will, with 18 weeks leave at the level of the minimum wage targeted at those earning under $150,000.
But not until 2011. Deborah has more. In fact she's worked out that the delay will only save at most $22M, which is tiny in the context of the entire Federal budget.
So why delay? Probably because in this time of Fiscal Apocalypse aka The Collapse of Global Capitalism spending money on frivolities is considered irresponsible. Financial austerity is the new black and all that.
Why does it seem to so often be women's issues that are send as expendable when spending is uncool? Pay equity here in New Zealand, paid parental leave in Australia; both are benefits largely accruing to the ladies, and more than that they are specifically measures which undermine the traditional gendered division of labour and thus encourage men into areas of traditional women's work.
For my family paid parental leave made a very real difference. Fourteen weeks of pay at the maximum rate at the time (about $380 a week if I remember correctly) was the buffer we needed to get us through the transition from two decent incomes to one. We tightened our belts to such an extent that we had $42 week competitions, and often it was the paid parental leave money that meant the bills got paid. We squirrelled it away as it came in and used it up when it looked like a mortgage or bill payment would bounce. In short: it helped a lot.
Good luck to those in Oz who are campaigning on this issue. The commitment to paid parental leave is itself a fantastic win, building on years of fighting for it. Even if it doesn't come in until 2011 all those who have put effort into this struggle will be making a real difference for many Australian families, hopefully for decades to come.