Government family policy in recent years has tended towards a part-time employment ideal for women with dependent children. Since the Labor government was elected in November 2007, somewhat greater emphasis has been placed on promoting the employment of mothers, mainly via an increase in child care subsidies. Part-time employment nonetheless remains the dominant form of employment for women with dependent children, whether partnered or single.
A constant theme in public discussion is that the quantity of available child care facilities is not adequate, at least in some regions. Research shows the total stock of facilities is sufficient, but it also shows that availability and cost of child care are key factors influencing mothers’ – in particular single mothers’ – labor market participation decisions, and that many women do not believe they have access to satisfactory care at a reasonable price. The private sector provides slightly more than half of the available facilities, although many of the private sector providers are small businesses operating in a manner similar to community-sector and local government centers.
In 2009, a Senate Committee recommended a fundamental review of child care provision, including the establishment of a statutory body, to provide advice on child care policy. The government has not yet responded to this recommendation.
In May 2009, the federal government announced the introduction of a government-funded paid parental leave (PPL) scheme to commence on January 1, 2011, which is to promote mothers’ employment participation and improve care of young children. A government inquiry in 2007 found that around 54% of female employees and 50% of male employees had access to some form of PPL. The government scheme will therefore considerably expand access to PPL in the community. The legislation to enact the scheme passed the House of Representatives on June 1, 2010, and is expected to be passed by the Senate.
The Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committee. Provision of Childcare. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. 2009. Available from http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/eet_ctte/index.htm. Accessed 21 April 2010.
Productivity Commission Draft Report, Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Social and Economic Infrastructure Services. Canberra: Productivity Commission, 2009.
Gabrielle Meagher and Debra King, eds, Paid Care in Australia – Politics, Profits and Practices in Child and Aged Care. Sydney: University of Sydney Press, 2009.