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Increased workforce participation won’t deliver without quality early learning

According to international and Australian research, the Federal Government’s aim to increase female workforce participation through a generous paid parental leave (PPL) scheme won’t be achieved without a high-quality, affordable early childhood sector.

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) is calling on the government to reduce the maximum payment from $75 000 to $50 000. The savings could then be re-invested into a single payment subsidy scheme, increasing the number of days parents can access early learning for their children.

‘ECA supports an improved paid parental leave scheme, but it won’t have much effect on workforce participation without a quality early learning sector’, said ECA CEO Samantha Page.

‘If we pull the scheme back to a more reasonable level, the savings could be used to ensure all Australian children have access to quality, affordable early childhood education.

‘This is the best way to increase our female workforce participation levels, which will return a significant investment to all Australians.’

Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) research shows that a combination of a full wage replacement PPL scheme coupled with an effective early childhood education and care sector has the biggest impact on female workforce participation.

‘Our concern is that while the majority of families will be secure for the first six months, finding affordable services for their children over the next four and half years will be difficult’, said Ms Page.

‘It will still leave families struggling to provide their children with quality early development and contribute to the workforce.

‘The single payment, early learning subsidy proposed by ECA is achievable with the funds saved by reducing the maximum parental leave payment to $50 000. The early learning subsidy will reduce the complexity of the current system and allow families to access more services at a reasonable cost.

‘This is what all Australians should be arguing for, because it will benefit everyone in the long term.’

Research published by the Melbourne Grattan Institute shows that by increasing Australia’s female workforce participation levels by 6 per cent, the benefit to the economy would be around $25 billion.

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