James, Joanne
July 2008
Social Policy Journal of New Zealand;Jul2008, Issue 34, p25
Academic Journal
This paper focuses on contemporary public perceptions of the challenges of combining paid work and raising a family, set against the backdrop of concerns about low fertility, structural population ageing and the composition of the future labour force. Australasian policy makers have responded to these issues with various initiatives aimed at assisting people who are raising families and engaging in paid work. The New Zealand Working for Families package, the Australian Family Tax Benefit package, and the two countries' parental leave and women-focused policies are compared, with a focus on cross-national similarities and differences. The most significant difference between the two nations is the lack of a paid parental leave scheme in Australia, but the family-friendly policies are similar in perpetuating tensions between ensuring both present and future labour supply. The policies are aimed at providing incentives to be in paid work when parents have children, but tend to reinforce the notion of work and family as separate spheres, and potentially contribute to social divisions between parents and non-parents by providing cash benefits to families with children. This analysis suggests that Australasian societies may be on the cusp of a more collective articulation of people's obligations to one another and the nation, including the collective consequences of personal lifestyle decisions such as choosing not to have children.


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