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      Paid Maternity Leave Campaign

    Giving SA the Edge with Paid Maternity Leave

    The Federal government in its budget on 10 May 2009 has committed to paid parental leave from January 2011 for those earning less that $150,000 a year.

    SA Unions will continue monitoring the scheme and ensuring that the Government carries out its commitment.

    Time for Paid Maternity Leave
    The campaign for a universal, government funded Paid Maternity Leave Scheme will be taken directly to the federal government today.
    >> on

    South Australia is at the cusp of an economic and skilled employment boom with the expansion of Olympic Dam, the establishment of over 30 mines in the north of the state, the development of the defence industry.

    In addition we have a great opportunity to build a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids by also developing a sound base of manufacturing industries with the establishment of high tech and “green jobs” in the metropolitan area. 

    We are a low pay sate in comparison to others. The globe is beckoning to our workers. We have an older and ageing population. We have a migration program but many people go to other cities and regions soon after arrival.

    ·         36.7% of the SA workforce is older than 45 years of age (ABS Cat 6291.0.55.001)

    Yet we have the untapped potential of women in the workforce. This includes women who are currently not participating in the labour market, women who want to work more than they currently do and women who are trapped in low paid, casual, part time work largely in the service industries. 

    Paid maternity leave is one of the keys to solving our labour market crisis. A federally funded minimum paid maternity scheme for all women for 14 weeks will help with the participation levels. This will also give an incentive to employers in areas of skill shortage to add additional paid maternity leave through bargaining in industrial agreements.

    In addition, the State Government should give South Australia the edge in the current competitive labour market by adding a state paid maternity scheme on top of a national scheme. In conjunction with other initiatives such as flexible work arrangements, high quality childcare and education services and clean green spaces for children to play, this would create SA as a truly great place to bring up children. It would encourage our young women to have babies, keep them here and attract families from right across the globe to come and live and work in South Australia.

    A skill shortage- what about the women?

    Employers in SA are already saying they can’t find workers, particularly in the skilled areas trades, engineering, mining, science and ICT. This situation is only going to get considerably worse when the mining and defence industries take off. This will also cause a drain of workers from other important parts of our small economy.

    It’s a topic of constant discussion in our state and an increasingly urgent problem for our future.

    Employers report to us that they prefer to employ local people into the new opportunities as it is more likely that they will be familiar with the location and culture of our industries. It is cheaper to employ locals and they tend to stay in employment longer. But employers are saying they just don’t have enough workers here.

    There is a huge untapped potential in dealing with these issues right at our doorstep- WOMEN!!

    ·         Approximately 140,000 SA women are available for work

    ·    61,000 SA women are under-employed

    ·    59,100 women want to work but are not currently in work

    ·    17,900 women are unemployed

    (SA Labour Market Profile 2006)

    ·     South Australia has Australia’s lowest increase in female labour participation from 1978-2006. (NILS 2007)

    ·     Employment to population ratio (age standardized) for SA men is 67.4 but for women its 55.4. (ABS Cat 6291.0.55.001- April 08)

    The other story of women’s participation in the labour market in SA is that women are currently over represented in the low paid, casual, service industry jobs. Many of them want to work more hours. The high paid jobs are in the developing industries and the areas of skill shortage. It is already the case that there is a considerable gender pay gap which has grown in recent years. This will only increase if there is not a concerted effort to include women in the higher paid jobs in our state.

    ·         Average male weekly earnings in SA are currently $1,104.00 and average female weekly earnings are $938.00 ( ABS Cat No 6302- April 08) a gap of $66 per week.

    Women Tradies - where are they?

    There is a national shortage of skilled trades people. The participation of women in training is extremely low and the number of women in traditional trades is minuscule in comparison to men. This is particularly true for South Australia. Enrollments in VET are high for women but largely in certificate 1 and 2 courses, not in cert 3 and 4 training or apprenticeships.

    This shortage of trained trades people such as mechanics, electricians and plumbers is a national and state crisis so we need to look at new ways of dealing with this. Perhaps it is time to conjure up the memory of Rosie the Rivetter from WW2. During this time it was women who took up the spanner to keep the economy moving and workplaces and the community adapted to their needs. 

    Women will only take up this opportunity if there is a significant change to the way that this work is organized and there is a make- over in the image of these professions as well as special programs to support women entering these areas.

    The possibility of having babies and a trade need to be promoted. Access to paid maternity leave and other family friendly measures will assist in helping young girls see the trades as an option for their future.

    Barriers to employment - Having Babies  

    It is well documented that caring responsibilities is a major barrier to employment (NILS 2007). When women have no access to paid maternity leave they have only four options

    -     Take unpaid leave and cope with a lower income. ( this option creates huge financial burden to lower paid families of which there are many in SA)

    -     Leave employment

    -     Go back to work very quickly and sometimes before it is suitable for both the mother and the baby.

    -     Decide not to have children or delay having children until they are in a more secure financial position.

    None of these options are good for the woman but neither are they good for business or the economy, particularly at a time of labour shortage.

    Bargaining for PML – Some Girls do, some girls don’t!

    Some women in SA have been able to bargain directly with their employers for paid maternity leave but these women are largely in the white collar, higher paid and public sector workforce. Paid maternity leave in SA is unusual in the service and hospitality industries and blue collar and manual industries.

    This is due to a range of factors including women having little bargaining power in the industry and the nature of priorities in male dominated industries.

    A national paid maternity leave scheme would take away the inequalities in the position of women and create a base condition regardless of bargaining power and nature of industry.

    A particularly South Australian issue is also the nature of our businesses. We have a higher number of small and medium sized workplaces which makes it very difficult for paid maternity leave to be delivered. A national system of leave will ensure that the size of the workplace is not a factor in whether or not a woman can access paid maternity leave.

    A national scheme- about time!

    As one of the very few nations in the world which has no access to a national paid maternity leave scheme there is a clear social but also economic argument as to why we should have one.

    We support a paid maternity leave scheme that delivers at the minimum:

    ·         14 weeks of full replacement pay for all women

    ·    Includes 9% superannuation

    ·    Paid for by the federal Government  

    ·    Included as one of the national employment standards.

    ·    This entitlement would be on top of the leave already gained by women as part of agreements.

    ·    This would be the first step of a process that builds the national scheme to be in line with comparable countries.

    A Competitive State Edge 

    In order for our small state to utilize the untapped potential of women workers and compete nationally and globally for the workers we need to build our future industries we also recommend that the SA Government focus on promoting our state as a great place for families and put in place a range of initiatives that will give us a competitive edge.

    We propose:

    ·         A state based paid maternity leave scheme of up to 14 additional weeks on top of any national paid maternity leave scheme or full pay replacement called the SA Working Mums incentive.

    ·    Special targeted training and employment programs for women

    ·    State Incentives for businesses to employ women and provide family friendly working conditions.

    Based on costs calculated by the previous federal government (on the basis of a max salary of $745 per week) the cost for SA for paid maternity leave would be $3.5mill per week of leave.


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