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Women's Issues Policy

WOMEN'S ISSUES

Labour is committed to creating opportunities for women of all ages, providing them with genuine choices, and equipping them to reach their potential.

Labour recognises that women have specific concerns, particularly in areas such as health and well being, maintaining work life balance, and economic sustainability.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Labour has:

- Introduced 12 weeks of paid parental leave in 2002 and extended it to 13 weeks last year. It will increase to 14 weeks in December 2005.

- Enhanced the work choices available to parents by increasing funding for Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) providers, extending eligibility for OSCAR and Childcare subsidies to around 70% of all families, and making quality home-based care eligible for childcare subsidies.

- Improved family assistance, including the Working For Families package, which raised family support rates by $25 every week for the first child and $15 every week for each additional child.

- Developed and begun implementation of the Action Plan for New Zealand Women – a five-year whole-of-government plan to improve women’s economic, health and social circumstances.

- Launched Te Rito: New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy, which takes a broad, multifaceted approach in preventing, reducing and addressing family violence.

- Established the Pay and Employment Equity taskforce and begun implementing its five-year plan to address the gender pay gap in the public service, and the public health and education sectors.

- Established an Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission.

PRIORITIES

Work Life Balance

Labour recognises that women contribute to society through both paid and unpaid work, as mothers, paid workers, caregivers, and business owners, and is committed to developing policies that allow women choice throughout their lives.

The main issues affecting work-life balance have been identified as: income adequacy, balancing work and caring responsibilities, and workplace cultures and practices.

Labour will:

- Develop and implement a range of responses to assist workers in balancing these responsibilities so as to both improve workplace productivity and ensure equitable and decent work.

- Improve access to paid parental leave. Self-employed mothers will be eligible for paid parental leave from July 2006.

- Increase the leave entitlement for eligible parents from 13 to 14 weeks from December 2005.

- Continue to review, with consideration of extension, paid parental leave provisions.

Supporting Families

We will continue to make provision for access to early childhood education with particular regard to the children of women who are beneficiaries or in part time work.

Labour will:

- Provide funding for 20 hours free early childhood education for three and four year olds attending any licensed, teacher-led services from July 2007.

- Continue to enhance work choices available to parents through programmes such as Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR).

- Work with industry to encourage family-friendly workplaces.

- Make it easier for parents and carers to move in and out of the workforce.

- Provide tax relief to an extra 60,000 working families from April next year through the Working for Families package. The new policy brings the total number of families who will be eligible for targeted tax relief under Labour to 350,000.

Economic Sustainability

Labour is committed to improving the economic well being of women, encouraging the success of women in enterprise, and improving the quality of earnings and employment for women who choose to enter the paid workforce.

Labour will:

- Allow up to 20% of Modern Apprentices in any industry to be above the current age limit of 21. This will provide greater opportunity for women to become involved in the scheme.

- Continue to develop policies to ensure that over time, pay and employment equity issues are addressed. Labour has recognised the need to close the pay gap between men and women in the public service and will work towards addressing this gap in other parts of the economy.

- Continue with annual adjustments to the minimum wage, as this significantly affects women, and ensure that the youth minimum wage maintains its value relative to the adult minimum wage.

- Continue to encourage and support women’s retirement investment, and ensure women have information about suitable superannuation schemes.

- Introduce an extended rates rebate scheme to assist low-income householders and ensure that the benefits and qualifying levels keep pace with inflation. From July 2006 the maximum rebate will increase from $200 to $500 per annum and income eligibility thresholds increase from $7,400 to $20,000.

- Continue to increase support for disabled women in employment through vocational services and community participation.

- Encourage women to utilise business initiatives, such as entitlements through Industry NZ, Venture Capital, and Enterprise Agencies.

Student Support

Labour has made a lot of progress towards making tertiary education more affordable, but we know that there is more to be done. While student loans provide vital support and help ensure that all New Zealanders can access tertiary education, repayment times are still longer than we would like and there is evidence that some graduates, particularly women, struggle to keep up with interest repayments.

Labour will:

- Abolish all interest charges on student loans for all students and New Zealand-based borrowers from 1 April 2006.

- Progressively increase parental income thresholds so that at least half of all fulltime students will be eligible for a student allowance.

- Maintain a simplified, capped tuition fee structure to provide certainty as to fee levels to students throughout the duration of their studies.

- Continue to support disabled women accessing Tertiary Education, and encourage the implementation of the Tertiary Education Code of Practice.

Women’s Health And Well Being

Labour is committed to improving women’s wellbeing through access to health and community support services.

Labour will:

- Coordinate services to families, including through one-stop centres.

- Increase our support of community agencies which

o Provide parent support through programmes like Well Child

o Coordinate services to families, including through one-stop centers.

- Continue to provide free maternity services.

- Ensure all New Zealand hospitals become baby friendly hospitals by the end of 2006, and continue to support breastfeeding because of the short term and long term health benefits to the infant, the mother, and the family.

- Fund women to undergo a second cycle of single embryo transfer IVF treatment where the first treatment does not result in a live birth.

- Develop youth specific sexual education programmes, delivered by peers and trained educators, and ensure that the quality of sexual education in schools is monitored with a commitment to continued improvement.

- Support the development of parenting courses and long term targeted programmes to improve the lives of young solo mothers.

- Develop the current eating disorders services and networks along with programmes designed to address the problem of binge drinking in young women.

- Retain the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to provide input into all aspects of policy development to advance the status and well being of women in New Zealand.

- Recognise the specific health needs of refugee and immigrant women and dedicate adequate resources to address them.

- Focus on preventive health care. We are committed, for example, to the implementation of the Cancer Control Strategy, which includes a $13.2 million breast screen age extension to cover all women aged between 45-69, the Healthy Eating Healthy Action Plan to combat diabetes and obesity, and the Cardiovascular Action Plan to reduce heart disease.

- Strengthen and develop consistent best practice procedures in elder abuse and neglect prevention programmes.


Family Violence

All forms of violence are unacceptable, particularly family violence where the victims are usually women and children.

Labour will:

- Continue to support implementation of Te Rito, the family violence strategy, and provide new impetus to the programme.

- Continue to support the Family Safety Teams pilot project. Family Safety Teams bring together police investigators, victim advocates and child advocates who work to ensure that the full range of family violence issues are addressed.

- Evaluate amendments to the Domestic Violence Act to ensure its effectiveness, for example through considering whether greater flexibility is necessary in the types and coverage of protection orders. Greater flexibility might allow for interim protection orders to be granted, and for coverage of orders to be varied where that is in the interests of dependent children.

- Support and develop the role of the newly-established Domestic Violence Clearing House, a national centre for collating and disseminating information about family violence, focussing on research and best practice.

- Support and develop the role of Family Death Review Teams.

- Consider the recommendations of the recent Open Hearing on Violence Against Women and Children.

- Ensure there are sufficient and well resourced crisis services for victims of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and sexual violence including date rape and rape within relationships and marriage, and ensure there are sufficient and well resourced treatment services for victims and offenders.

- Ensure sustained funding for prevention and community education on family and sexual violence.


ENDS

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