Monday, March 10, 2008

Extending paid parental leave

The government is hinting that it will extend paid parental leave. Good. A report from the Families Commission last year found that New Zealand's paid parental leave entitlement was one of the lowest in the developed world, with only (predictably) Australia and the US being worse. They recommended a significant expansion, with a staged implementation building towards a full year of parental leave, with a much higher payment cap (linked to average rather than minimum wages). It would be solid, sensible policy, which would help give kiwi kids a good start in life, help with work-life balance, and improve equality in the work-place. But in addition to that, it would also be smart politics. As I noted last year, this is a perfect wedge issue for Labour to use against National. Most New Zealanders support it, while National will likely reflexively oppose it as "bad for employers" and spending money which could be given away as tax cuts to their rich mates. A significant expansion could not only win votes; it would also put National on the spot and make them squirm again, just as the issues of Auckland Airport and buying back the trains did last week. National can escape this bind, of course, but only by committing to support left-wing policy - which is a victory regardless of who is in government.

So, keep an eye on the Budget. If Labour is smart, we may see something on this issue then.