Labour’s proposal offers no real advance on the present policy while increasing welfare spending. The paid leave period would be extended by just a month, from 14 to 18 weeks, and more parents would be eligible for it, mainly, it seems, to match Australia’s new scheme.
This desire for comparability in spending is somewhat odd in itself. Hasn’t the same Labour Party scorned the Government’s goal of achieving pay parity with Australia by 2025?
More than that, however, an extra four weeks would offer little in the way of inducement or message. The money would still cover only a tiny fraction of the financial cost of a child.
More problematic still is Labour’s plan to make Working for Families more generous for parents of children under 2. Already, that scheme is too benevolent in both its sum and reach. Many middle-class families have been able to arrange their financial affairs to qualify for unwarranted payments.
But all Labour can do is promise to spend more and more money, meaning higher income taxes or more borrowing.