Female Workforce Attachment Policies

The NFAW has compared and contrasted policies of the major political parties bearing on workplace attachment for women in the lead up to the 2013 election. In doing so NFAW has assumed that workforce attachment is a desirable option for a great many women, having the potential to ensure that they have greater economic security throughout working life, as well as in retirement. This review encompasses a number of different portfolio areas. NFAW has not endorsed any particular suite of policies.

NFAW is a non-partisan feminist organisation. NFAW is not dependent on government financial support. Our purpose in this project is to assist women (and their partners) to make a well informed decision. Text has been submitted to political Parties for checking for accuracy.

Enhanced work-force participation has been identified by the Australian Treasury as a significant factor in improving the productivity of the Australian economy . Women and retirees are among the groups whose participation can be increased.

Recent research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies shows that most women return to work on a part-time basis after having a child. There is evidence that working women also bear most of the domestic care responsibilities. Female work-force participation for the age range 20-74 years in Australian has increased from 61.1% to 65.2% in the last decade. (The participation rate includes those people in work and looking for work. These figures do not differentiate between part-time and full-time employment, but much of the increase in female participation is associated with part-time work. ) According to Treasury, the female participation rate in Australia is higher than the average in OECD countries, but there is scope for increase among the mature age population.

Many labour economists argue that the employment to population ratio is a better indicator of change in the labour market as it measures actual employment. In the last decade the employment rate for 20-74 year old females has increased from 58% to 62.3%.

In 2012 The Grattan Institute in its report ‘Game Changers’ , which analysed potential drivers of improved productivity, supported Treasury, arguing that improvements to child care accessibility and affordability, together with reducing the effective marginal tax rate (EMTR), should be considered as ‘game changers’ in achieving the goal of greater female work force attachment. Treasury has also identified the quality, affordability and availability of child care as all factors relevant to workforce participation (Treasury Working Paper, 2010-02).

Paid parental leave programs are essential, but not sufficient in achieving this objective.
In this analysis, the NFAW has assumed that there should be equal pay for work of equal value; that women with dependent children should have the right to choose to work full-time or part- time, according to their preference; and that Government policies ought encourage shared parenting, with both partners having family friendly flexible working conditions available for them if they so choose.

These desiderata impact on industrial relations policy, on direct transfers or welfare policy, on taxation policy, on child care subsidy and provision policy, and on paid parental leave policies.

This paper makes reference to those while summarising the existing suite of policies. Separate stand-alone comparison papers will explore in detail policies on the interaction of tax and transfers (EMTR), and parties’ child care policies.

An analysis of major parties’ paid parental leave policies was published in May 2013.

This paper has been authored by Professor Marian Baird, and Irina Kolodizner, and authorised by the National Foundation for Australian Women Social Policy Committee.

Read the full paper here:  Workforce attachment policies final June 2013