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Not all parents in paid work

Not all parents in paid work

Labour’s “Working for Families” package emphasises work as the way out of poverty, but it ignores the fact that not all parents can work fulltime or earn enough to feed and clothe their families, the Alliance says.

The Government’s latest tax breaks for middle-income families do not help those in low-paid, part-time and casual work and they do nothing to alleviate child poverty in beneficiary families, says Gail Marmont, Alliance social services spokesperson and Dunedin List candidate.

“These are New Zealanders too, they are amongst the poorest families in our community, and they have been cynically ignored once again,” she says.

Ms Marmont says that although women with children have been participating in paid work in ever increasing numbers, there has been very little adaptation by the rest of society to their roles as employee and mother, and on top of this, women are expected to carry out most of the unpaid and caring work in our community.

“More than 100 years after New Zealand women became the first in the world with the right to vote, there is still a considerable way to go.

“Childcare is patchy and expensive. Most workplaces are inflexible about the hours people are expected to work. And women take home significantly less pay than men, especially Maori and Pacific women who tend to be in a narrow range of occupations such as cleaning and caregiving.”

The Alliance would set explicit goals to eliminate child poverty by increasing family income of the poorest families with a $15 an hour minimum wage, an immediate increase in benefits, making the first $10,000 tax-free and introducing a universal family benefit [www.alliance.org.nz ].

Ms Marmont says the concept of a universal family benefit was once widely supported by all political parties. Family assistance has been around since 1926, and in 1946 the Family Benefit became fully universal. A woman with two children received the equivalent of at least a full day’s pay for a labourer (about $100 a week in today’s terms).

“We think it is important to value the role of parenting. That’s why we don’t agree that it is in the best interests of their children to force women on the domestic purposes benefit into the paid workforce.

“It’s also why we support the Scandinavian model of providing paid parental leave for women for the first 12 months of their baby’s life, and providing two weeks paid parental leave for their partners. This would be funded through an employer levy along the lines of ACC.”

Ms Marmont says wiping student debt, providing a living allowance for all students and removing tuition fees would encourage more women to participate in tertiary education and remove the discrimination women experience because it takes them so much longer to pay off their student debt under the current system.

She says it is important to provide opportunities for women to participate in a full range of occupations, starting with the public sector, and to link public funding to training in women-dominated industries such as aged care.

“Labour’s Steve Maharey admits their aim is to get beneficiaries back to work. That’s fine if there is decent work available and genuine supports in place for workers with family responsibilities, but that’s far from the truth.”

Ms Marmont says unemployment figures are misleading and the actual extent of unemployment is far higher than officially stated, particularly among women.

“The figures are skewed by part-time and casual work and the large number of students, Maori students especially, in tertiary education.”

Ms Marmont urges voters to forget the popular stereotypes of beneficiaries. “These are real people, struggling against enormous odds.”


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