John Howard and working women

This blog began with a post about the Prime Minister’s restructuring the labour and tax market against working women/mothers. Not much is changing, it seems:

Senior Liberal women expect Prime Minister John Howard to announce a paid maternity leave scheme at his campaign launch tomorrow.

The move would curry favour with all-important female and family voters and modernise the image of an “out of touch” Prime Minister.

Sources believe Mr Howard and Liberal strategists have formulated a scheme that targets women working in small- to medium-sized businesses. New mothers would receive the minimum wage from the Government for between 12 and 14 weeks.

I don’t see how this makes them appear less out of touch. Having bribed women out of the labour market, at a time when (a) the country is short of skilled labour, so that (b) women would, presumably, be at significant earnings potential, does the Prime Minister have a plan to make subsequent re-entry easier? Or, as is more likely, will he leave the tax structure as it stands: one in which women already faced a significant (to the degree of prohibitive) marginal cost to re-entry into the workforce – the moreso, now that he has increased the financial incentive to leave the workforce.

In terms of supply and demand, will this simply have the same effect as other incentives? Case in point: offer a grant to home-buyers; watch house prices increase, at the mean, by about the same amount. Will this only prompt demand-push inflation in prices for the child-raising basket of goods and services (including child care, which would be a failure of the policy, but would not surprise me). In such a case, does the Prime Minister have a contingency plan for families who don’t/cannot afford to leave the mother at home, but who are punished by said inflation?

Just a thought. When I go forwards, you go backwards; and somewhere we will meet.

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