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Baby bust explained by mediocre family benefits.

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Wayne Swan MP Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services


A groundbreaking study examining the generosity of family benefits in western nations has shown Australia’s benefits are second rate - helping explain our falling birth rate.

The research1 to be presented to the Australian Social Policy Conference today is an embarrassment to John Howard, and shows the Coalition is far from family friendly.

The main findings of the study contradict John Howard’s argument that paid maternity leave would not help address our falling birth rate (a claim repeated just two days ago).

The report clearly suggests the more generous and comprehensive package of assistance to families the higher the birth rate, saying:

• "We see a strong positive relationship between fertility rates and the strength of the child benefit package." (page 27)

Paid Maternity Leave and other family friendly policies would certainly strengthen our family assistance system which was found wanting by the report.

The report found Australia has become a second rate country when it comes to supporting families:

• Australia was rated 11 out of 22 countries - relegating it to the ‘second rank’ group of countries (page 15);

• Australia's assistance for families are equivalent to only 6.7% of average earnings - only a third as generous as the top ranked Austria where benefits are equivalent to 17.2% of average earnings (Table 2 page 15);

• Australia was found to have “a relatively high marginal tax rate…the intersection of taxes and the withdrawal rates of income related social security payments leads to a substantial proportion of any extra wages from low income earners being lost..." (page 12).

The Coalition's claims about the generosity of our family benefits just don't stack up. John Howard will say and do anything to hide the financial squeeze he is putting on Australian families.

The Coalition's family payment system is a disaster - putting one in three families into debt; families are being taxed more than ever before; and now the cost of educating children and keeping them healthy is going through the roof.

ENDS Wed 9 Jul 03 Web

Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Matt Linden on 0407 430 613

1 “How does the Australian child benefit package compare internationally - UK’s University of York and the University of New South Wales’ Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC)