Media release 5 March 2001
What do we want our taxes to pay for? - Knowles
Employers' Federation chief executive Anne Knowles says there is widespread misunderstanding about parental leave
benefits in New Zealand, with many seeming to think that New Zealand is somehow behind other countries.
"In fact, provisions for new parents in New Zealand are very comprehensive and compare extremely favourably
internationally," Ms Knowles said.
"Our law provides job protection for mothers or fathers taking parental leave, guaranteeing their jobs will be kept open
for them for 12 months. Employers have accepted this policy, even though it imposes significant training and replacement
costs on them.
"As well, social welfare targeting (the DPB and family support) ensures families receive support if unable to take full
responsibility for the costs of having and raising children."
Ms Knowles says those pushing for parental leave paid for by the taxpayer often use the justification that they are
trying to implement relevant ILO conventions.
"However these conventions need to be seen in context. Many such conventions are pushed through the ILO by countries
which often pay large state benefits but which also suffer from stagnating private enterprise sectors caused at least in
part by the large tax burden required to pay the benefits. This is not an economic model that New Zealand should be in a
hurry to follow. Moreover the conventions are often voted for by other countries which have no intention or ability to
Ms Knowles says the current situation in New Zealand:
a) protects existing jobs,
b) provides targeted help where needed, and
c) does not discriminate between those in or out of the paid work force.
"It's the Government's prerogative to introduce a policy to pay for paid parental leave out of taxes, and it will no
doubt weigh up all the costs and benefits. If the Government decides a payment to those on parental leave from
employment is more important than equivalent spending on health, education, defence or other priorities, then that is
its right. It is a matter for the community and its Government to decide."
Contact Anne Knowles 04 4994111